Deportation is illegal: LHR

Published May 15, 2009


By Louise Flanagan

Home Affairs has ended an asylum-seeker's court challenge to his deportation by deporting him.

He was arrested pending deportation when his asylum-seeker permit expired in February, after he spent 63 hours over six days queueing at a Home Affairs office to renew it but in vain.

The Democratic Republic of Congo citizen, whose name was withheld to protect him, was kicked out on Sunday, the same day Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took over as the new Home Affairs minister.

Yesterday, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) said the deportation was illegal and had been carried out to circumvent the legal process.

"Deporting an asylum-seeker, while they are engaged in legal proceedings challenging their detention and deportation, thwarts the judicial process and demonstrates bad faith," said the LHR's Julie Ebenstein. "Home Affairs knew about his case and was aware of their obligation not to deport asylum-seekers."

She said it was against international law to deport asylum-seekers to a country where they faced persecution.

The LHR filed the asylum-seeker's application in the Johannesburg High Court on April 24, challenging his detention and threatened deportation.

He had been detained at the Lindela holding facility in Krugersdorp since February 21.

On April 28, both the minister, then Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the director-general of the department filed papers indicating their intention to oppose the application. Bosasa, which runs Lindela, said it would not oppose the application, but would abide by the court's decision.

The application was due to be heard on Tuesday but two days before the court hearing - Sunday - the man was deported.

In his affidavit supporting his application, the man said he fled the DRC because he was persecuted there for his political opinions. He arrived in SA on Christmas Eve in 2007.

He applied for asylum and received a temporary asylum-seeker permit, which he subsequently renewed every few months.

On February 11, he again went to the Home Affairs office in Crown Mines to renew his permit but when he arrived at 6am there was already a queue of about 200 people. He stood in the queue until 4.30pm, when the office closed, but could not get into the office so his permit expired.

That evening he made a sworn affidavit at a police station, explaining the situation, as he feared arrest without a valid permit.

The next two days, a Thursday and Friday, he spent in the queue again, from 6am to 4.30pm each day, but could not get into the office.

The next Monday he returned at 6am and stood in the queue again until 4.30pm, but didn't get into the office.

The same happened over the next two days.

That Friday he was arrested in Yeoville and, despite his affidavit and explanation, sent to Lindela and detained pending deportation. Officials made no attempt to verify his status, he said.

Related Topics: