Two South African banks – Bidvest and Absa South Africa – have confirmed that they will continue to assist people with asylum or refugee documentation that has expired during this period. The Banking Association of South Africa confirmed, on 26 May 2020, that their banks do not automatically restrict such bank accounts as a result of expired asylum or refugee documentation.
If you have further questions about this, you can contact our Advocacy Programme. To do so, please call 0782603536 or send us a please-call. This is operational between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Community screening is done door-to door, by healthcare workers. Healthcare workers are NOT connected to immigration or the Department of Home Affairs. Each healthcare worker will be in uniform, and they will have an Identity Badge with their name on. If they come to your house, they will ask you a set of questions in order to identify whether you have symptoms and need to go for a test. It does not involve you being medically tested at your home. You can read more about it here.
Our offices are closed due to the lock-down – but we are still online! Programmes are in direct contact with clients, but if you have a question for a specific programme, click here to find out who you can contact.
Documentation / Home Affairs
Asylum/refugee visas: If your asylum seeker permit or refugee status has expired, or is due to expire, during lockdown (from 15 March 2020 onwards), it is considered to have been extended up to, and including, 31 October 2020. This was officially confirmed when Directions from the Department of Home Affairs were Gazetted. You can read these Directions here: https://bit.ly/3kadVBV.
Those on immigration visas (work, business, study, etc): Home Affairs has said that “those whose visas which expired from 15 February 2020 will not be declared illegal or prohibited persons … [nor] will they be arrested or detained for holding an expired visa … If they wish to apply for an extension, they may reapply for their respective visas or relevant visa exemptions while in the Republic immediately after the lockdown has been lifted…These temporary measures will remain valid until 31 July 2020 unless extended officially by the Department.” Furthermore, if your visa expired during the lockdown period and you wish to leave South Africa, you should not receive a ‘ban’ upon exiting South Africa. This is confirmed at Section 21 of the Directions here.
In terms of civic services at the Department of Home Affairs, DHA has confirmed that services such as birth registration (not late registration of birth), temporary identity certificates, collection of smart IDs, replacement of birth/death certificates, passports for those in delivery of essential goods and those who are travelling outside the country for medical services are being provided. Under Level 3 of the national lockdown, the Late Registration of Birth and the soleminsation and registration of marriages will also be rendered, according to the Directions.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation has confirmed that all learner’s licences, driving licences, temporary driver’s licences, motor vehicle licence discs, temporary permits, roadworthy certificates and professional driving permits that expire during the national lockdown (the date stated is 26 March 2020 – up to 31 Aug 2020) are valid, and their validity period is further extended until 31 January 2021.
If you feel unsafe during lock-down, or want to report a crime, or need a similar urgent services, click here to see a list of numbers to call who can support you – which has been translated into different languages.
Courts may grant evictions during Level 3 Lockdown. During level 3, landlords can make applications at court to evict tenants, however the sheriff will not execute an eviction order until the end of level 3 unless the court has said that it is “just and equitable” to do so. For more information, visit: https://evictions.org.za/. For advice or assistance contact the Legal Support Hotline (066 076 8845), the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (whatsapp, call or “please-call-me” to 073 226 4648 / 071 301 9676 / 083 720 6600; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ndifuna Ukwazi (081 832 9363; email@example.com).
Financial Relief (Governmental)
Some governmental relief packages are open to applications from non-South African citizens. We have complied a list of some of them here. These packages are not limited in terms of nationality or citizenship, however you will still have to satisfy the other requirements.
Please check SASSA, below.
During lock-down, if you require legal advice, click here for CoRMSA’s list of useful contacts. You can also call the Legal Support Hotline on 066 076 8845. To get in touch with our Advocacy Programme, please call 0782603536 or send us a please-call. This is operational between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Preventing the spread of Corona-19
Click here to download and share our posters about covid-19. These posters are translated into 12 different languages, including Lingala, Somali, Swahili, Kikongo, French, Zulu and Xhosa. Digital Medic also have infographics and videos on preventing the spread of Covid-19, in different languages. Click here.
Reporting abuse by police and military during lock-down
Under lock-down, the police and military have a role to prevent the spread of covid-19. To this end, they can only use force in very specific circumstances. Lawyers for Human Rights have created an infographic to explain this, and how to report on it – click here to view it. The Military Ombudsman can be called on 076 609 2255.
Rent – paying rent during lockdown
Under lock-down, paying rent might not be easy. If you are having trouble paying your rent, first engage with your landlord. Ndifuna Ukwazi has created an infographic on What happens if you cannot pay rent during lockdown. They have also created a podcast which you can listen to for more details.
SASSA Grants are accessible by South African citizens, those with refugee status, or those with permanent residency in South Africa. In order to apply, a 13-digit ID number is required. For those on refugee status, this 13-digit ID number is generated only when a Refugee ID is applied to (which is different to refugee status, and can only be applied to if refugee status is granted). However, SASSA has made provision, under lockdown, for those refugees who, although they have refugee status, do not have a 13-digit ID as they have not applied for a refugee ID. This is a temporary measure only. SASSA will generate a unique 13-digit ID for these cases. The applicant must phone the SASSA helpline, and get instructions on the various steps they have to take; one of which is deposing to an affidavit. If your refugee status has expired, we advise you to try to claim your SASSA grant. You can also contact: 0800 601011 for SASSA questions. If you are then denied access, please call Refugee Rights Unit on 021 650 5581 for legal assistance.
Please note, regarding the Social Relief of Distress Grant: Following a court case undertaken by Scalabrini and Norton Rose Fullbright, some of South Africa’s asylum-seekers and special-permit holders will be able to apply for the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant (‘SRD grant’). It is important that, if you think you will be affected by the case, you read the following: (1) Applicants for the grant, just like any other persons, will still subject to SASSA’s eligibility criteria – they cannot be receiving an income, any other form of grant, or any economic relief from UIF (2) People who hold asylum-seeker and special permit status in South Africa, whose documents were valid at the start of the National State of Disaster will be able to apply for the SRD grant. Applicants will need to provide their documents, as issued by the South African government. (3) This SRD grant is a ‘special’ grant rolled out for a six month period only, from May 2020, and only eligible candidates will receive R350 each month during that limited period. Claims for May have already concluded and so persons affected by this Court Order should be entitled to claim from June onwards. There will be more updates on this on our Facebook page.
Directions relating to spaza shops, published by the Department of Small Business Development confirmed that all spaza shops – regardless of the owner’s nationality – should remain open during lock-down, subject to certain requirements (for example, holding the appropriate municipal permit). If you are affected by the closure of a spaza shop on the grounds of nationality, please contact the Legal Hotline on 066 076 8845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for a useful guide on running a spaza shop / informal trading during lock-down.
Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)
Because of the covid-19 lockdown, the Department of Labour set up the ‘COVID-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Scheme’. This helps employers pay a part of their employee’s salary if they closed completely or partially during the lockdown. Normally, your employer should start this process, however if your employer is not using this Scheme you may also be able to apply on your own behalf.
We have made an infographic and explainer on the COVID-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Scheme, aimed at those on refugee, asylum or migrant status in South Africa.
Alternatively, if you are a UIF contributor and are unemployed because of termination, dismissal, or insolvency, or if you have reduced income owing to reduced working hours, you may be eligible to apply for Normal UIF Benefits – apply online with the UIF Online Filing System. For more info, follow this UIF’s Easy Guide for Electronic Claims, call UIF for assistance (0800 030 007), or read our Explainer on UIF.
We encourage those needing welfare assistance to research all available options, including your local Community Action Network, churches and masjids.
Regarding Scalabrini’s Welfare Team, please note, our Welfare Team has a very limited fund to help refugees and migrants at this time. Please understand that the Welfare Team are simply not able to assist everyone. We are receiving a very high number of calls and requests. Your application for Welfare Assistance will be assessed, but we cannot assist everyone. To apply, please (1) call the Welfare Team Hotline 0685660956, (open Monday-Friday 9am-4pm) or,
(2) send a please-call to the same number (0685660956) or (3) email: email@example.com.
We understand that this is a difficult time, but please have patience when contacting the Welfare Team. Many thanks.