Lawyers outraged at SA treatment of refugees

PRETORIA
Lawyers for human rights have written to the South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, deploring in the strongest terms the deteriorating standards at Marabastad following the centralization of the Refugee Reception Centres to a single central point in Pretoria. <

BR>The department has a backlog of over 300 000 on its waiting list. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 asylum seekers per day queue for days to get the precious asylum permit papers.
Many of them are Zimbabweans, who have been subjected to abuse, rape, harassment and robbery whilst sleeping in the open to keep their place in the queue.
The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) has written to Mapisa-Nqakula expressing their deep concern over what they say is a violation of human rights by a democratic country.
“In the course of the previous months, ZEF has been investigating human rights conditions at the Department of Home Affairs Office in Pretoria. Our observations, combined with the numerous interviews conducted with asylum seekers have clearly demonstrated that the situation has become dire for the hundreds who wait outdoors for weeks on end in the hope of legalizing their status. Every day asylum seekers face robbery, muggings, bribery, verbal and physical abuse as well as a serious lack of access to basic human rights, such as access to water, food and sanitary facilities,” said Gabriel Shumba, the ZEF Executive Director.
“ZEF is also deeply alarmed by allegations of exploitation by Home Affairs Officials. ZEF recommends that serious investigations be undertaken to shed light on these grave allegations. We call on the SA government and your department to acknowledge the situation, to respect and fulfil your obligations to assist refugees in accordance with International Refugees Laws, to which South Africa has acceded.” – Savious Kwinika

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