SAHRC probing abuse of refugees

2012-06-07 16:43
Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File, Sapa)

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The department of home affairs must come up with urgent and meaningful measures to put an end to the ill treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, the SA Human Rights Commission said on Thursday.

The recommendations come after the SAHRC launched another investigation into reports of an alleged protest which was staged by refugees at the Lindela Repatriation Centre on Monday. It was reported that the refugees were protesting against an unlawful practice by the department which had allowed them to be held captive for longer periods. However, the department had denied allegations that there was a riot.

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

SAHRC spokesperson Vincent Moaga said the commission has decided to launch an investigation to the allegations after the findings of a monitoring team the SAHRC have summoned to the facility on Tuesday.

"Our team was presented with contradictory statements after it had engaged in discussions with the manager of the facility and asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"These findings are currently under examination," he said. Moaga confirmed that the commission was also investigating an earlier complaint relating to alleged appalling conditions and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers at the facility from a consortium of eight NGOs, who worked closely with refugees and asylum seekers.

"The rights of non-nationals are specifically protected in national law and in international human rights agreements. This group is particularly vulnerable and the state is obliged to take appropriate steps to ensure the basic rights this group are adequately protected.

"The history of reported abuses and ongoing complaints demands that the commission take the necessary steps to ensure that the rights of this group are not violated with impunity," said Moaga.

He added that these violations were of grave concern as it appeared to be becoming endemic and systemic.

Prior to the incident that occurred at the Lindela Centre on Monday, the commission raised concerns about reported physical assaults and attacks on migrants and asylum seekers at the Marabastad offices of the home affairs department in April this year.

These concerns and the commission's own recommendations in its 2009 report on the rights of non-nationals have been brought to the attention of the department again.

"It is extremely disconcerting that the department has not yet responded to the recommendations of the commission contained in the 2009 Report.

"The situation is exacerbated by the repeated occurrences of similar violations. There appears to be no adequate and tangible corrective measures being taken by the department to ameliorate the plight of migrants and asylum seekers," said Moaga.

Home affairs spokesperson Manusha Pillai and spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa were unavailable for comment.

Read more on:    sahrc  |  home affairs  |  human rights

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