Dept unlawfully detaining people - group

2012-09-19 19:01

Johannesburg - The home affairs department is unlawfully detaining refugees and migrants and forcing costly court actions to fight for their release, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) said on Wednesday.

"The detention of refugees and migrants is carried out in an unlawful manner," said LHR refugee and migrant rights programme head Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh.

"Despite repeated engagement with [the department] we've encountered a lot of difficulty in releasing people without resorting to the courts," said Ramjathan-Keogh.

She was speaking at the release in Johannesburg of an LHR report, "Monitoring Detention in South Africa".

LHR attorney Thandeka Duma said home affairs "seemed to have dysfunctional internal systems".

Home affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa declined to comment on the report as the department had not yet read it.

"We've not had sight of that report to enable us to comment intelligently," Mamoepa said.

"However, the department remains committed to discharging its mandate within the framework of the law, the Constitution, and the framework of international obligations."

Immigration Act

Duma said that under the Refugees Act, asylum seekers were allowed to move freely while their applications were being considered. They were allowed to remain in the country until the entire application process, including appeals, was exhausted.

However, the department in many cases was only using the Immigration Act, which allowed for detaining undocumented migrants, in contravention of previous court rulings.

"Courts ruled [the department] will not read the Immigration Act in isolation," Duma said.

She said the department maintained it was adhering to the law.

"However, this claim is totally contradicted by the evidence in this report and elsewhere," Duma said.

She said attempts to intervene with the department for the release of improperly detained migrants and refugees had been unsuccessful, forcing LHR to seek recourse in the courts.


In the year covered by the report - February 2011 to March 2012 - LHR won 18 of its cases and secured the release of 41 improperly detained people, a win rate of about 95%.

LHR was also awarded costs - although less than it believed was owed -and this was a significant cost to the state.

"We are of the view that such costs are a waste of taxpayer money," Duma said.

"The court should hold home affairs' officials personally responsible for court orders that are not followed," Duma said.


She said LHR, along with many other NGOs, had been denied access to immigration facilities, such as the Lindela repatriation centre in Krugersdorp, and was only able to meet clients outside it.

"We are also concerned by the continued lack of independent monitoring in immigration detention facilities."

The SA Human Rights Commission was the only body allowed in and had not released a report on conditions inside Lindela since 2000, she said.

SAHRC legal consultant Sugne Niemann said the organisation had inspected Lindela earlier this year and made regular visits.

The SAHRC provincial office said their visit to Lindela was to investigate complaints lodged against the repatriation centre in the past year and was focused on access to healthcare for detainees.


"We have already begun the preliminary baseline monitoring and should have a preliminary report in place by December," the Gauteng SAHRC said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The SAHRC said each complaint was being treated on its own merits and would have different timelines for outcomes.

"We should, however, mention that we have already made recommendations and requested that the department of home affairs provide us with reports about conditions in Lindela," the organisation said.

"We are concerned that the department has failed to reply to our request... for a response."

  • yar.wellnofine - 2012-09-19 19:31

    Illegal immigrants should all be locked up and deported. I don't believe that Home Affairs and SAPS do enough to combat the out of control problem of illegal immigration.

      philips.cook - 2012-09-19 19:54

      U are such a fool. even when u think u are too lazy to go to another country, do u know where ur children will find themselves? that is if u have any. u lack vision

      max.reynecke - 2012-09-19 20:07

      @Philips.cook, what are you on about? The illegal immigrants are like a plague in the country, so I see nothing wrong with ILLEGAL immigrants being detained unlawfully because they are unlawfully in the country.

      yar.wellnofine - 2012-09-19 20:14

      U lack the ability to spell. I will expect my kids to follow due process if the ever decide to live somewhere else. I also have enough vision to see through you. You claim to be god fearing, try to be law abiding as well.

  • tiaan.truter - 2012-09-19 19:40

    Welcome to South Africa...where any idiot can come across the border and feel right at home....

  • mikembengo - 2012-09-19 20:14


      yar.wellnofine - 2012-09-19 20:22


  • Gerald Jordaan - 2012-09-20 05:52

    We don't want illegals..deport the lot !! Pronto !!

      joseph.ade.5 - 2012-09-20 08:01

      you are not South African, your ancestors were illegal immigrants here and looted our land many years ago . And they still are even today. They, too, should have been deported. idiot!!!!

  • rupert.magande - 2012-09-20 15:56

    The problem is that the government has got no clear policy on immigrants , take for instance a person coming from zimbabwe can cross the border into south africa and once in south africa he can go to the messina home affairs office and apply for asylum , once the person has got asylum papers he can go anywhere in south africa , but after 6 months he /she has to come back to messina to renew that asylum paper hence people who will now be in joburg or cape town will not bother coming back to messina to renew their asylum papers hence they become illegal immigrants just because of the a system that does not allow them to renew their permits wherever they are . Now if this same person is caught by the police he is now labelled as an illegal immigrant and is detained at Lindela for up to two month before he/she is deported back to beitbridge border post , and needless to say the following morning he will be back again in south africa , and the circle continues .

  • rupert.magande - 2012-09-20 16:24

    The real reason why the department of home affairs illegally detains illegal immigrants is the fact that the detention facilities it has have got private security firms enforcing security and not the prison services or the saps , so what i believe happened was that a comrade was issued with a tender to man the Lindela detention center , so he provided cctv , biometrics and alarm systems for the center and he gets a monthly cheque for his services , so the centre has to be full to capacity all the time so that the cheques will keep on coming , but now this center relies on the SAPS and Home affairs department for its inmates , as much as we all know the police and home affairs departments are under funded so they cant arrest illegal immigrants on a dally basis , so what is basicaly happenning is this ,illegal imigrants who are arrested in january when the police carry out raids on buses coming from zimbabwe are detained at lindela for up to 3 months , they are only released during easter when the police and home affairs carry out their next raids during the easter holidays when the next raid occurs ,so for the 3 month they will be in detention the comrades will be racking millions of rands by providing security services, catering and laundry services to the detention centres . Illegal immigrants are actually pawns in a well organised scheme to make money for the comrades.

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