Johannesburg - The High Court in Johannesburg has ruled that the detention of migrants at the Lindela Repatriation Centre is unlawful and unconstitutional, the SA Human Rights Commission said on Thursday.
“The SAHRC welcomes the judgment handed over by the South Gauteng High Court in a matter relating to the illegal detention of immigrants against the department of home affairs,” said spokesman Isaac Mangena.
He said the court declared judgment in favour of the commission, People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), and 39 individuals who were detained at Lindela.
The SAHRC and other applicant organisations argued that Lindela's practices regarding detention at the facility were unconstitutional and in contravention of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002.
Lindela in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, is the only facility of its kind in South Africa where illegal migrants are detained while awaiting deportation.
Mangena said the individuals in this matter had been subject to inhumane treatment, including being detained for longer than 30
days without the necessary warrant of a magistrate permitting extended detention, experiencing a miscalculation by the department of home affairs of the start of the 30-day period of detention, the failure of Lindela officials to follow fair procedure, and keeping the migrants in detention for longer than 120 days.
“The court ordered Lindela Repatriation Centre to, without delay, cease all practices that result in non-compliance with the Immigration Act, such as those experienced by the individuals in this matter.
“It further ordered that Lindela allow the SAHRC access to the facility on a regular basis and that regular reports on the number and status of detainees at Lindela be issued.”
In particular the court ordered that the department of home affairs ensure that no person was detained for a period exceeding 30 days from the date on which that person was first arrested.
“The SAHRC sees this as a victory for migrants in South Africa. This re-affirms our commitment to protecting the rights of vulnerable members of our communities, including those coming from outside, and serves as a stern warning to the department of home affairs to consistently comply with the rights of detainees,” he said.