There was a public backlash when it was initially reported that Valentyna Nazarova was detained because she could not apply for the necessary paperwork in her country, which is in turmoil.
Her family told News24 the immigration officers even deprived Nazarova of water, which she needed to take for medication for a heart condition.
In a written response to News24, the department’s spokesperson, Siya Qoza, denied the allegations.
“She presented herself at immigration officers with a fraudulent asylum seeker’s permit. She was then taken through an interview process, as is provided for by the Immigration Act, to ascertain the facts. At no point was she detained. Throughout this process, she was afforded access to her medication, food and water,” said Qoza.
Qoza said the department was investigating the source of the document.
Qoza said the country had a responsibility to ensure that it had all the relevant details about anybody seeking to enter our country.
“As a result of the interview process, she was issued with the relevant documents as an asylum seeker,” Qoza said.
News24 took the department’s response to Nazarova’s daughter, who had previously facilitated her mother’s responses.
Nazarova’s daughter said her mother was issued a permit, which was valid for five days, and was asked to produce further documents on Wednesday.
She previously claimed the home affairs department allowed her mother to enter the country after she explained that, because of the war, she could not possibly go back to Ukraine to apply for a visa.
It has been estimated that more than two million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russian forces invaded on 24 February 2022.
Nazarova first fled to neighbouring Romania before flying out to South Africa on Thursday to join her daughter, who has been working here since 2008.