The centre, a holding place for foreign nationals awaiting deportation, has over the years gained notoriety for alleged inhuman treatment of deportees, ranging from unhygienic living conditions, lack of proper health care, sub-standard food to harassment by both officials and fellow detainees.
Just last week, the centre was in the news, again for the wrong reasons, after 10 people were injured during a riot by inmates over management’s refusal to listen to their complaints about being kept there for too long. This was after some of them had allegedly been kept at the centre for nine months.
The law stipulates that detainees should not be kept there for more than 120 days.
Home Affairs Director-general, MkuseliApleni, said deportees were held in compliance with minimum standards protecting their dignity and human rights. Deportation is handled in conjunction with resident Embassies and High Commissions, who must verify citizenship and issue relevant travel documents.
“This is sometimes made very difficult when the foreign nationals do not co-operate with representatives of their governments. Consequently we are sometimes unable to process the deportation of such nationals within the 120 days as prescribed in our Immigration Act,” said Apleni.
He downplayed the riots – and the injuries. “Yes, there were some deportees who staged a fight at the Centre last week, but it was not a riot.
Because of the security looking after the Centre, there were no injuries that necessitated people being taken to hospital for serious injuries and broken bones.
“There were many reasons for this fight including issues of people not being happy about their deportation. However, this relates to the issues about which we are now talking – if we cannot verify your citizenship or nationality, how will we know to which country you should be deported? We must also verify such information with the Embassy or High Commission so we can effect such deportations.”
The official said the 120 days did not include the time from which a person is arrested by the police, who have 48 hours within which to verify the authenticity and validity of their documents.
He denied the use of force by the authorities.
“We did not have any reports of teargas or rubber bullets. I would have explained this if so. I do not where such a report comes from.”Post published in: Africa News