Tens of thousands of migrants are detained and/or deported every month, most of them from Zimbabwe, which is still reeling from more than a decade of political mayhem and economic rot widely blamed on President Robert Mugabe’s failed leadership.
The report, “Breaking the Law, Breaking the Bank: The Cost of Home Affairs’ Illegal Detention Practices”, released by the African Centre for Migration and Society at the Wits University, said more money was lost by the Department of Home Affairs trying to defend its actions in court.
The Centre measured the costs of 90 detention cases brought against the DHA during a 23-month period in 2009 and 2010. Most of those detained were either legally in South Africa or in the process of formalising their stay and protected by the country’s Refugee Act.
“The DHA wasted R4.7 million defending these cases in court and unlawfully detaining the individuals in question,” said the report.
“By defending the detention of people who were legally in South Africa, the government not only violated the rights of those detained, but also shifted the costs of its illegal activities to the South African taxpayer.”
Most of those bound for deportation, but saved by Lawyers for Human Rights, were asylum seekers who should never have been arrested and could face dire consequences if returned home.
The report highlighted the ways in which DHA routinely violated the law, acted in contempt of court orders and continued to engage in practices ruled illegal by a court – forcing the taxpayer to foot the bill for the high-paid advocates hired to defend these “unwinnable” cases.
The report estimated that for every individual in illegal detention, the Department paid an average of R27,000 to Bosasa, the private contractor running Lindela – enough to provide housing for 150 poor families every month.
The cost of transporting individuals to Lindela ran to R82,350 and detention costs were estimated at R2,630,805.
“The R4.7 million in wasted costs could have built 87 RDP houses, provided an extra 168,144 households with the minimum water provision, or paid the salaries of 27 teachers or 44 nurses,” says the report.Post published in: Africa News