Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp. Picture: Adrian de Kock
Cape Town – Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) claim foreign nationals held at the Lindela Repatriation Centre have been assaulted, intimidated and their human rights violated by contracted private security officers of the Bosasa Group.

The lawyers want an inquiry into the what they called complaints of abuse and human rights violations at the facility, an action the Scalabrini Centre has welcomed.

They say they were shocked to hear that some of the detainees who complained about the violence were arrested on charges of damage to property and are held in police holding cells in Krugersdorp.

The organisation considers the arrests an attempt to intimidate detainees and to prevent them from laying charges against Bosasa Group officials.

“These abuses and inhumane detention conditions have (been) documented over the past 16 years by various human rights groups, universities and the SAHRC. Sadly, all calls for independent oversight of the detention facility have been met with disdain by the authorities that run the Lindela Repatriation Centre,” the LHR said.

Asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) spoke of what amounted to collective isolation and punishment, according to LHR.

A medical examination by a physician from Doctors without Borders confirmed that collective isolation was accompanied by excessive use of violence, which, according to the detainees, included being shot with rubber bullets from close range and assaults with lead pipes.

“We suspect the arrests were made following a joint visit by LHR, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to investigate the detainees’ complaints on Friday April 14, 2017."

“This visit, exposed how detainees were mistreated, violated and seriously assaulted,” said the LHR.

Scalabrini Centre advocacy officer Corey Johnson said: “We have had clients who were unlawfully detained and suffered similar abuses so it’s concerning to see this happen repeatedly."

“We support LHR and MSF’s call for independent oversight of the facility and urge Bosasa and the Department of Home Affairs to take this matter seriously and with urgency.”

Bosasa spokesperson Papa Leshabane referred questions to the Home Affairs Department.

Home Affairs acting spokesperson David Hlabane disputed the assault claims against the DRC detainees, saying they had stormed into one of the departments at Lindela and attempted to assault officials who were present.

“They were peacefully removed, but returned in large numbers with the intention to riot and cause grievous harm and damaged property. Any injuries were as a result of the violent behaviour of the detainees themselves."

“Detainees who rioted were managed with minimum force and the police were called in to investigate the matter."

“The matter will be monitored with the security company to ensure the detainees do not take the law into their own hands,” said Hlabane.

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Cape Times