Lawyers: SA abuses rights of ‘illegals’

2014-06-29 15:00

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The conditions in which allegedly illegal foreigners are being detained at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp nearly sparked a riot during a recent visit by Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron.

This was revealed in a court case that has been launched by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), challenging what the rights group calls the government’s illegal detention practices related to foreigners. Court papers include a report of a visit by Cameron to the facility. When he spoke to male inmates, the “detainees became increasingly agitated and enraged”.

In papers lodged in the high court in Pretoria last month, the rights group argues that a section of the Immigration Act that deals with the detention of allegedly illegal foreigners in South Africa is unconstitutional. The section in question allows authorities to detain a foreigner for 120 days without a court appearance, something the LHR argues is a violation of their constitutional right to freedom and security, and a violation of certain rights of arrested and detained persons.

Although the Immigration Act does allow for a court to review the detention of an alleged illegal foreigner, this can only be done at the request of that person. But a study quoted in the court documents notes that 75% of the detainees interviewed at Lindela during the survey did not know they had the right to have their detention reviewed by a court.

Disturbingly, the study, which was conducted by Dr Roni Amit of Wits University, notes that 94% of the detainees at Lindela were not told anything about their rights when it came to the deportation process.

The report also notes that there is a high incidence of people who are detained for more than the 120-day limit. In one case, a person was detained for 1?050 days, or nearly three years.

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