Rights group calls for temporary ban on arrest of migrants

Rights group calls for temporary ban on arrest of migrants

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) has called for a moratorium on the detention and deportation of migrants for at least 6 months amid the outbreak of coronavirus.

Lindela immigration repatriation centre
Pic Courtesy: Sibahle Motha

The human rights group says overcrowded prisons and detention centres pose a massive health risk as the country battles the spread of the virus.


Head of refugees and migrants rights programme Sharon Ekambaram says detaining migrants in overcrowded cells is a recipe for disaster.


"We together with a number of our sister organisations have made this appeal to the Department of Home Affairs and to the president, because we are concerned that if people are arrested and they're on the outside and they may have contracted the virus. They will go into places of detention and, as you know, notoriously places like Lindela and police holding cells are generally overcrowded and the conditions are bad and this is going to be the recipe to spread this in the areas of detention," she explains.


"In the interest of ensuring that we do curb this virus, we are calling for the Department of Home Affairs to make a very clear, public statement that there will be a moratorium on all immigration detention for at least the next 6 months."


Court order granted after family refuses coronavirus treatment

The department's spokesperson Kwara Kekana says the wife and daughter tested positive for the virus, while the husband refused to be tested. "We can confirm that there was a family that refused to be quarantined. The wife and daughter tested positive to the virus while the husband refused to be tested and left the hospital without swabs being taken."

Ekambaram admits that the law and order must prevail but that Covid-19 has presented the country and the globe with special circumstances.

"These are things that our president, the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Home Affairs need to think through what do we do in this period that if you're arrested for a criminal offense you still have the means and the right to protect yourself and reduce your risk of getting Covid-19.

"If, for example, you do go through the legal system and the procedures and you do go to prison, are the clear and set out measures and resources to ensure that we're not bringing newly convicted people, putting them into places of detention which would result in prisoners that are detained already that they contract the virus in this way."

On Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster where he outlined a number of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Measures include suspending visits to all correctional centres for 30 days.

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