Ramaphosa slammed for treatment of refugees

President Cyril Ramaphosa listens to debate in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa Feb. 15, 2018, prior to being sworn in. Ramaphosa replaces Jacob Zuma who resigned Wednesday. (Mike Hutchings, Pool via AP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa listens to debate in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa Feb. 15, 2018, prior to being sworn in. Ramaphosa replaces Jacob Zuma who resigned Wednesday. (Mike Hutchings, Pool via AP)

The organisation called on Ramaphosa to ensure that by 2019, South Africa contributes meaningfully to supporting and protecting refugees.

As World Refugee Day, June 20, is being commemorated today, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) penned an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighting the poor treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by South Africa.

The letter further addresses how the country’s “department of home affairs disregards not only the laws of South Africa and the values of the Constitution, but also fails to comply with the United Nations and African Union refugee conventions”.

In the letter, the LHR details what it describes as “very harmful, unlawful and cruel practices and policies perpetrated by the department [of Home Affairs]” against asylum seekers and refugees.

In summary, the letter reveals that these practices and policies include:

* The department’s refusal to renew permits, with yet to be finalised applications for refugee status running at hundreds of thousands, the largest backlog in the world.

* New asylum seekers are unlawfully denied the right to apply for asylum.

* That the best interests of thousands of children born by refugees or asylum seekers are ignored.

* That the department disregards court orders, which declared many of the department’s practices, as unlawful and unconstitutional.

* That the department denies asylum seekers their constitutional right to dignity and family life.

* That individuals are wrongfully and unlawfully detained under the current immigration legislation, with little improvement to detention conditions despite a plethora of recommendations being made on the matter, and that only people of African descent are detained at Lindela repatriation facility.

In the letter, the LHR called for Ramaphosa to take action on the crisis at the department, which the organisation said was “operating in flagrant disregard of constitutional values, cripplingly inefficient and poorly managed, with reports of widespread bribery and corruption”.

“Without changes at the highest levels, Home Affairs will continue to be a threat to our democracy and the values espoused in the Constitution.”

The Mail & Guardian published the full open letter to President Ramaphosa on World Refugee Day.

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