PASSOP, South African Human Rights Commission and 39 Unlawfully Detained Immigrants Take SA Minister of Home Affairs to Court

The South African Human Rights Commission (“SAHRC”) and People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (“PASSOP”) as well as 39 unlawfully detained foreigners have instituted urgent court proceedings against the Department of Home Affairs for systematically and unlawfully detaining foreigners for in excess of 120 days in contravention of the Immigration Act.

It is with great disappointment that PASSOP along with the SAHRC have instituted proceedings against the Minister of Home Affairs (“Department”) for unlawfully detaining foreigners in contravention of the Constitution, the Immigration Act, and Immigration Regulations. Proceedings were instituted on Friday the 2nd of November 2012 in the South Gauteng High Court.

It is clear to PASSOP that the Department has failed to respect the law and as a consequence the fundamental human rights that the laws are meant to protect. It is also clear to us that this is an endemic problem and without serious intervention, South Africa will continue to fail to protect the rights of detained foreigners. We call upon the new Minster of Home Affairs to take the human rights of all persons seriously and not to waste tax payer’s money defending unlawful actions that undermine our integrity as a country. We call upon the Minister to release the thirty-nine detained applicants and to swiftly adhere to our demands that Lindela become accountable.

The group of thirty-nine unlawfully detained foreigners are joined as applicants in the proceeding. These foreigners have all been detained at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in excess of 120 days, which is the maximum period of detention allowed by the Immigration Act. Some of these thirty-nine foreigners have been detained for as long as 16 months.

Under the conditions that foreigners are detained, they have limited capacity to enforce their rights. Many of them are unaware of their rights and have limited access to legal representation. As a result, it is almost impossible for foreigners to be released and for them to realise their right to just administrative action without our organisational intervention.

The Lindela Repatriation Centre has a history of unjust administrative action towards foreigners. The immigration detention practices and policies of the Department have not changed in substance, although the prevailing legislation is now different.

This sort of systematic abuse of foreigners represents a continuous violation of human rights by the Department of Home Affairs. These practices are illegal and contrary to the principles of the Constitution which uphold the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised persons in South Africa.

PASSOP has been monitoring the Lindela Repatriation Centre and has worked closely with the thirty-nine detained foreigners. As such, PASSOP has witnessed the travesty of justice first hand. PASSOP condemns the conduct of the Department in no uncertain terms and stands opposed to this inhumane practice and confidently joins the SAHRC as an applicant in this important case.

For comment contact Braam Hanekom, 084 319 1764 or Langton Miriyoga 0840269658

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