Thousands detained illegally at refugee camp

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Some 21,719 people were illegally detained at the Lindela detention centre between August 1996 and September 1999, only to be released once they were identified as South African citizens, according to the Auditor- General's latest report on the Department of Home Affairs.
The giant camp in Gauteng is used to house illegal immigrants before they are deported to their home countries - usually the neighbouring states of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.
In certain cases persons were detained for up to five days before being released.
The Auditor-General indicated that if such persons had been detained for only one day, the department would have incurred accommodation costs of 68,000 US dollars.
But the Democratic Alliance on Thursday said the illegal detaining of South African citizens is in direct conflict with the Constitution which stipulates that all citizens are equally entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship.
It also guarantees the right to freedom and security of the person, including the right not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause.
DA spokesman Francois Beukman said the party would monitor the implementation of the Home Affairs National Identification System with great interest, adding, "We cannot afford to have South Africans illegally detained on the mere suspicion that they are illegal immigrants.
" South Africa, which receives 60,000 applications from asylum seekers yearly, is bracing for a large influx of refugees from Zimbabwe, which is facing its gravest economic crisis in 20 years.

24 may 2001 13:13:00

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