Xeno response a festering contradiction: MSF
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Cape Town - The South African government’s treatment of foreign nationals through Operation Fiela while publicly denouncing xenophobia was a “festering contradiction” said aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) on Monday.
“MSF is concerned that the raids by the police, military and the Department of Home Affairs in (the) wake of the xenophobic violence erodes trust and exposes a contradiction,” said the organisation on Tuesday.
MSF was responding to a joint operation by police, military, and the Department of Home Affairs – dubbed “Operation Fiela” – which began on Freedom Day where, according to an earlier statement by police, 889 people were arrested during the operation, including 745 for being in the country without proper documentation.
MSF said while it recently witnessed “constructive engagement between KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) MEC for Community Safety Willies Mchunu and refugee camp residents about their fears and reintegration efforts being undertaken”, Operation Fiela was targeting foreign nationals in Durban in KZN and in Johannesburg in Gauteng.
According to MSF, these operation - which took place Friday May 8 - culminated in mass arrests and detentions.
“This type of action sends a contradictory message to foreign nationals who remain vulnerable and deeply traumatised,” said MSF.
The organisation said repeated attempts by Lawyers for Human Rights - a member organisation of the People’s Coalition Against Xenophobia of which MSF is affiliated – to consult detained foreign nationals had been denied.
“Most detainees still have not had the opportunity to speak to an attorney since their arrest on Friday morning, despite a court order requiring that access be granted,” said MSF.
MSF said Lawyers for Human Rights would return to court with an urgent application to “seek an order granting legal representatives access to detainees; the provision of a full detainee list with locations of detainees; and the halting of any deportations until all detainees have had the opportunity to consult an attorney”.
The application would be heard in the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday.