Rights bodies take Home Affairs to task
THE Department of Home Affairs has come under fire from rights groups over its handling of immigration law, especially the detention and deportation of foreign nationals.
Both Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) took issue with the department yesterday over alleged human rights abuses.
SA remains a popular destination for political asylum seekers and refugees.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, in 2010, more asylum applications were lodged in SA than in any other country. Most of these were from nationals of Burundi, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and Zimbabwe.
However, there were also some asylum applications from citizens of China, India and other Asian countries.
In its 2012 Detention Report, launched yesterday, LHR found that despite legal protection, the detention and deportation of foreign nationals continued to be carried out unlawfully.
Further, the SAHRC said home affairs was yet to respond to its investigation into the conditions at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp and an incident at the Marabastad satellite office where an official allegedly whipped a person standing in a queue.
LHR, along with other groups, has for years been raising concerns about the manner in which immigration officials treat foreign nationals. Its complaints are now the subject of a SAHRC investigation.
The head of the r efugee and m igrant r ights p rogramme at LHR, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, said repeated engagement with home affairs had not borne fruit. "The main substantive concerns are the detention and deportation of asylum seekers and refugees ."
LHR recommends that the government ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and establish monitoring mechanisms for all detention facilities. It further wants the SAHRC and civil society organisations to be allowed regular access to detention centres.
The SAHRC was investigating complaints that four nongovernmental organisations had lodged earlier this year relating to conditions at Lindela. "We have already made recommendations and requested that the Department of Home Affairs provide us with reports about conditions in Lindela ," said SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena. SAHRC was particularly interested in the Marabastad incident.
Home affairs spokesman Ronnie Momoepa said he had not seen the report and could not provide an informed response. Further, he was not aware of the SAHRC concerns.
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