Zimbabwean human rights groups late last year accused South African authorities of inhumanly treating asylum seekers in methods that include beatings and corruption. The government said it would only act after a formal report was presented, but more than two months after this was done, the Home Affairs Department is still mum.
In the latest accusation, the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa said this week that it witnessed some of the “most heartbreaking and inhumane” treatment of asylum seekers outside the Marabastad Refugee Reception Office.
It said this illustrated the impact of a new shift in government policy on asylum seekers in South Africa.
“Since the beginning of December 2011, CoRMSA has observed that, Marabastad, Musina and Durban Refugee Reception Offices have been turning away asylum seekers unless they are in possession of an Asylum Transit Permit,” said the organisation’s spokesman, Gwadamirai Majange.
“However, at Beitbridge, one of the busiest points of entry for asylum seekers to South Africa, it has been observed that the immigration authorities are not issuing Asylum Transit Permits. It must be emphasized that the practise requiring that asylum seekers be in possession of this transit permit in order to gain access to the asylum process is in itself unlawful. This requirement is neither contained in domestic laws nor international conventions to which South Africa is a signatory.”
Resultantly, asylum seekers were unable to receive protection and vulnerable to arrest, detention and deportation to countries of origin where they may face persecution or death, while a “permanent roadblock” on the main highway from the Beitbridge border post ensures that those people travelling into South Africa have the required documentation.
“What is alarming however is that those same asylum seekers who have been denied a transit permit at the border are subjected to further harassment, detainment and deportation.
“It is clear that the South African government’s new policy with regards to asylum seekers is not only contradictory and unclear but also violates the right to seek asylum to which South Africa subscribes through domestic law and international obligations.”
CoRMSA questioned how two arms of the same government department – Asylum Seeker Management and Immigration, were not acting in concert.
“One demands that the asylum seeker produce a document which the other refuses to issue. CoRMSA demands that there be clarity on the government’s policy with regards to asylum seekers and that the rights of these vulnerable persons be protected and defended.”Post published in: Africa News