For Immediate Release: Sunday, 31 July 2011
The Black Sash is concerned about the increased risk of harassment, arrest and mass deportation of undocumented Zimbabweans now that the moratorium on their explusion has expired. The Department of Home Affairs had warned earlier in the year that any Zimbabwean found to be without proper legal documentation after the 31 July cut-off date, would be arrested and sent back home. But the veteran human rights organisation insists that the mass deportation of more than a million Zimbabwean is not a solution to our migration challenges and could possibly inflame xenophobia in southern Africa.
Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Nkosikhulule Nyembezi says although Home Affairs has promised a grace period to allow for appeals and voluntary returns, hundreds of thousands of displaced Zimbabweans waiting for their status determination process to be finalised will be left vulnerable to arrest, detention and deportation. “Only about a fifth of the estimated 1.5 million Zimbabweans in South Africa are in the asylum process or have been documented so far, leaving the majority exposed to deportation. There is little evidence to suggest that detention and deportation are effective deterrents or migration management tools. In fact, we have witnessed the repeated return of most of those who are deported,” says Nyembezi.
The Black Sash repeats its call on government to develop a comprehensive and progressive policy on immigration that is aligned with international protocols and respects, protects and promotes the human rights and values enshrined in our Constitution. These policies and practices need to take cognisance of our particular location in Africa, trends towards regional integration and the inevitability of foreign nationals travelling to South Africa to seek shelter in our democracy.
Nyembezi insists deportation should only be carried out as a last resort. “Home Affairs needs to urgently and clearly communicate its strategy and plans for managing those Zimbabweans who fall outside the special dispensation process in order to allay growing fears and uncertainty within these communities. This strategy must take into account the needs of vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and those receiving medical treatment. We call on police and immigration officials to resist profiling people according to their language and looks, and arresting or harassing foreign nationals on suspicion that they are illegally in South Africa,” says Nyembezi.
The Black Sash implores government leaders in the SADC region to double their efforts to find a lasting political solution to the problems in Zimbabwe in order to restore stability to the region as a whole.
Read the Black Sash information sheet and flyer on the Rights of Refugees
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