Grave injustice as family from Eritrea repeatedly denied asylum in SA

Filmon and Sharon Tesfai.

In July Filmon Tesfai, a victim of Christian persecution from Eritrea, a small country on the horn of Africa, had to go to Port Elizabeth to apply for political asylum in South Africa.

During that PE trip, Filmon, who is currently based in Cape Town, was interviewed by Gateway News: read the story of extreme religious persecution for the first time — or refresh your memory if necessary – at this link.

During his July visit, the Department of Home Affairs, told Filmon to return to PE after a month. Despite a court order demanding that the department reopen its Cape Town office months ago, this has not happened and so people like Filmon have to incur great expense through repeat trips to PE. Filmon had to return to PE twice more before he finally had a hearing on October 9.

Filmon did his homework for this important interview in PE, including providing evidence of imprisonment, etc. The Home Affairs official concluded at the hearing of several hours that he was a genuine victim of religious persecution.

His interview experience was similar to that of his wife Sharon, a medical doctor, at the Durban office of Home Affairs last year. However, Sharon, who had fled their Marxist-governed country ahead of her husband, was subsequently refused asylum with some flimsy reason given. But hope sprang eternal that Filmon would get it this time.

Well, our hope turned out to be unfounded when his asylum application was turned down on November 6. And how appalled so many believers were who prayed at the lodging of the appeal two weeks ago, when, in spite of being ably assisted by an experienced lawyer in Cape Town, he only got a permit for one month.

From diverse sources he was advised to pay a bribe. Apparently this is the only way to be served at Home Affairs. As a matter of principle he cannot do this. He now has to go to Port Elizabeth for the fifth time, unless God intervenes! Let us pray that this grave injustice may be overturned.

If ever there was a straightforward case of a family who should be granted asylum, here is one. How our country, which needs people with skills like those that the couple bring to the table, can behave in this way is baffling! Filmon is a fluent English speaker, holding a master’s degree in global health and well being from Dundee University in the UK. The couple was also looking at getting Sharon to write a Health Professions Council of SA exam to enable her to practice medicine in SA. To date, she has been volunteering at a clinic of the Jubilee Church in the Cape Town suburb of Observatory.

Due to the shortsightedness and greed of corrupt employees at various government offices the country may now not only lose this couple who had sensed a calling to serve in South Africa until such time that they can return to their home country after a return to democracy. There are also many South Africans with much needed skills driven away, to use them elsewhere.

The NPO Friends from Abroad has been assisting the family since June 2019 with accommodation. Two advocacy attempts to the Minister of Home Affairs on behalf of the family remained unanswered.

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