Panafrican News Agency

Rights body slams Mozambique for s failure to release detained refugees

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - Amnesty International has faulted the Mozambican authorities for failing to release 16 African and asylum seekers who are currently languishing in detention.

The global human rights body in a press statement on Saturday said that the asylum seekers have been held in inhuman conditions in prison for the past 18 months yet they have not committed criminal offences.

The rights watchdog was highlighting the plight of the detainees as the world marked World Refugee Day on Saturday.

Amnesty International said the refugees and asylum seekers comprise 15 Congolese people and one Ethiopian man.

They have been in detention in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province, since their arrest in January 2019.

An attempt to deport seven of the Congolese citizens to the Democratic Republic of Congo failed.

“The biggest tragedy about the continued arbitrary detention of these refugees is that 18 months after their detention, they remain in the dark as to why they have been arrested in the first place,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

“Their treatment is abhorrent and authorities must acknowledge this issue and provide remedy and ensure that the criminal justice system delivers justice for these marginalised people urgently.”

"The Mozambican government must immediately and unconditionally end the arbitrary detention of these refugees and release them without any delay or charge them with internationally-recognisable offences if they have committed any crime,” said Mwananyanda.

The refugees have been held in inhuman conditions with no toilet in their cell and no access to clean drinking water.

They are also not provided with sufficient food portions, they don’t have mattresses and have to sleep on a sheet of paper on the floor, said the watchdog.

The group was arbitrarily arrested on 17 January 2019, after being handcuffed and allegedly beaten by police and immigration officers in Maratane refugee camp in Mozambique’s northeastern Nampula province.

Two days later, they were transferred to the police station in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province.

Amnesty International  pointed out that the prolonged arbitrary detention of the people is a human rights violation and poses a threat to their lives in the context of COVID-19.

The watchdog said it had come to learn that the prison authorities have not implemented any measures to prevent the disease in the detention facility.

-0- PANA DJ/MA 21June2020