Illegal immigrant ‘targeted’ for speaking out

2019-01-23 15:22
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Jail

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A Zimbabwean man, who spoke out about being kept in “inhumane” conditions in a single police cell with 19 other foreign nationals awaiting deportation to their home countries, has accused Home Affairs officials of punishing him for speaking to the media.

The man was quoted in an article in The Witness almost two weeks ago complaining about being kept in holding cells at Pietermaritzburg police station instead of being transported to the Lindela holding facility in Krugersdorp, Gauteng.

Also read: Illegal immigrants held in police cell for months

“After the article was published we were visited by lawyers and we started seeing some progress as small groups of foreign nationals started being transported to Lindela,” he said.

“On Monday morning police and Home Affairs officials came and took everyone — including those who were brought into the holding cells after me and other Zimbabwean nationals — to be transported to Lindela, but they left me behind; just me alone.”

The man said he got no response when he asked why he was being left behind. “I am being punished for speaking to the media about the conditions we were being kept in. They’re holding me hostage,” he said.

Bongani Mahlangu, provincial communication practitioner at Legal Aid SA, said after reading The Witness’ initial article, which was published on January 9, they visited the illegal immigrants the following day to find out what assistance they needed. “They instructed us to be in contact with Home Affairs to enquire on the status of being moved to Lindela and asked us to facilitate their urgent move to Lindela,” he said.

Mahlangu said they were told by Home Affairs that the continued incarceration of these immigrants was lawful since they had detention orders obtained from court. He said all detentions and extensions concerning the illegal immigrants who could not be transferred within 30 days were submitted to Legal Aid SA.

“We are not in support [of this] and Home Affairs has been advised that they should endeavour to transfer these illegal immigrants on time,” said Mahlangu.

He said an agreement that the transfers would be made on time and that all those who complained would be moved on Monday, January 21, was reached.

Cyril Mncwabe, Home Affairs provincial manager, confirmed that all the other foreigners, except the man who had spoken to The Witness, were transported to Lindela on Monday.

“The reason why [he] was left behind is because the police have given an official letter requesting that he must not be deported due to an outstanding case against him,” said Mncwabe.

He said the man was suspected to be linked to an armed robbery and police were waiting for an official DNA report to determine if he was involved or not.

“There is absolutely no truth [in the statement] that he was left because he has been speaking to the media. He cannot be punished for speaking to the media. There is media freedom in South Africa and as a government department, we respect the right of individuals to exercise his or her right to speak to media,” said Mncwabe.

He added that the man’s deportation will be done once the police have completed their probe and cleared him.

Mahlangu also confirmed that Legal Aid SA was aware the man was not taken to Lindela as he was under investigation.

The man could not be reached for further comment to determine if he was aware that he was being investigated.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  illegal immigrants
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