The impending deportation of Zimbabweans living in South Africa is a violation of human rights, according to the International Detention Coalition.
The deportations, which South Africa insists will resume next week, will expose Zimbabweans to further infringements of their rights in their home countries, the organisation believes.
“While South Africa, to its credit, does not routinely detain asylum seekers and refugees, of serious concern at the current time is the precarious situation of Zimbabweans in the country,” said Grant Mitchell, IDC Director, in a statement to The Zimbabwean this week.
Mitchell, concurring with last week’s concern by the Lawyers for Huamn Rights, added the deportations would come at a great cost to Zimbabwe’s southern neighbour.
“Immigration detention in South Africa and internationally is extremely expensive, can harm the health and wellbeing of those detained and has been found to not be effective at deterring irregular migrants, including Zimbabweans.”
The moratorium on deportations to Zimbabwe, which has been in place since April 2009, will be lifted on 31 July, 2011. There are an estimated 1.5 million Zimbabweans in South Africa, of which about 150 000 are in the asylum process, and 133 000 have been documented through a special documentation process which was carried out over 2010/2011. This leaves the majority of Zimbabweans in South Africa vulnerable to this detention and deportation process.
It was also announced this week that South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs does not have enough labour to deal with the overwhelming demand for asylum permits.
Home Affairs officials confirmed there had been a surge in the number of such applications in recent weeks, much to the detriment of service delivery.
“This is largely attributable to the unavailability of adequate personnel to cater for the high turn out of clients,” Home affairs spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, said from Pretoria.
Home Affairs overwhelmed
Mamoepa could not disclose whether they would increase the number of staff at its Marabastad Refugee reception centre, which serves mainly Zimbabweans.
Home Affairs has been in recent weeks overwhelmed by asylum seekers, mainly Zimbabwean. Earlier this month, about 20 Zimbabweans were injured following a stampede in Marabastad.
Some Zimbabwean asylum seekers expressed concern this week they had been turned away from that refugee reception centre as the congestion had seen the office closed before they could extend the validity of their asylum permits or apply for new ones.