Today (20 June 2017), on World Refugee Day, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) successfully fought for the freedom of a Syrian refugee who had been detained on the basis of a fraudulent asylum permit since late May. The lawyers charged that the Applicant’s detention was wrong in both substance and procedure, as he had not been charged with any crime or been allowed to exercise his right to habeas corpus. Additionally, the lawyers contended that even if the Respondents’ claims are correct and the refugee is liable to be deported, the legality of that deportation is doubtful based on the current dire situation in Syria. 

The Pretoria High Court Judge Tuchten, J. was especially moved by the consideration of the continuing crisis unfolding in the refugee’s home country. In his own words, he allowed that he had a “cultural aversion to people being gassed” and maintained that “…sending someone to Syria is a statistical death warrant.” Under Section 2 of the Refugees Act, deportation is prohibited in cases in which the deportee’s “…life, physical safety or freedom would be threatened on account of external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or other events seriously disturbing or disrupting public order in either part or the whole of that country.” The judge found that the present case met this standard, holding that Syria is a “jurisdiction prima facie to which a person cannot be returned.”

As detention is only permissible pending deportation, the judge’s finding that deportation in this case would violate Section 2 of the Refugees Act meant that continued detention was unlawful. The judge ruled that the Applicant must be immediately released and permitted to apply for refugee status; until his asylum application is decided (including any resultant appeals), he may not be deported. In the judge’s words, “I imagine [the Applicant’s] first stop after having a cup of tea, will be the Refugee Office.”

For more information contact, Carol Mohlala, 079 238 9826