Home affairs denies refugee 'riot'

2012-06-05 16:14
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Johannesburg - There was no riot at the Lindela Repatriation Centre outside Krugersdorp, the department of home affairs said on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa denied there was a riot at the centre on Monday as reported by some media on Tuesday.

"Our reports are contrary to that. Our understanding is that inmates were trying to force early release from the centre."

He denied reports that there were violent confrontations between guards and inmates at the centre.

According to the Immigration Act, the department cannot detain refugees for more than 120 days.

"There is a trend developing where inmates refuse to supply details of their nationalities, which leads to delays because we cannot contact their embassies," Mamoepa said.

The department was powerless to deport inmates or process their applications without consulting the relevant embassy.

This put the department in a "difficult position" because inmates were sometimes kept longer than 120 days because of the lack of co-operation, he said.

The Times reported on Tuesday that inmates of the West Rand refugee centre staged a protest that turned violent when guards fired rubber bullets and teargas.

Three months

The reason given for the alleged riot was that the department held them for periods longer than the permitted 120 days.

A Lindela inmate, who asked not to be named, said he had signed a document for his release on Thursday after being detained for more than three months.

"Instead of being released together with other inmates, we were taken to different police stations where we spent the night."

They were then returned to the repatriation centre.

Home affairs spokeswoman Manusha Pillai denied there was a riot on Monday.

"Some of the deportees, however, allegedly attempted to incite others to riot against the department's mandate to deport foreign nationals, in breach of South Africa's immigration law," she told the newspaper.

- SAPA

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  home affairs
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