Violence and Violations at Lindela Repatriation Centre

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is deeply concerned by the excessive use of force and intimidation by private security officers of BOSASA Group against immigrant detainees held at the Lindela Repatriation Centre. BOSASA Group is a private company, contracted to  manage the centre.

We are also stunned to hear that some of the detainees who complained about the violence have been arrested on charges of damage to property and are currently languishing in police holding cells in Krugersdorp. Arresting vulnerable people allegedly for breaking a few window panes is reflective of the insidious erosion of basic human rights where greater value is attributed to property than to human life.  LHR considers the arrests as a blatant attempt to intimidate detainees and to prevent them from laying charges against BOSASA Group officials .

We suspect that the arrests were made following a joint visit by LHR, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to investigate the detainees’ complaints on Friday the 14th April 2017. This visit, exposed how detainees were mistreated, violated and seriously assaulted.

LHR heard testimony of what amounts to collective isolation and punishment of asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Medical examination by a physician from Doctors without Borders confirmed that collective isolation was accompanied with excessive use of violence, which according to the detainees included being shot with rubber bullets from close range, assaults with lead pipes.

Due to the extent of injuries witnessed, MSF recommended that certain detainees be transferred to a hospital for further, adequate medical treatment. Despite the gravity of concern, the medical supervisor of the Lindela clinic denied such treatment and deemed it unnecessary. Eleven detainees, all originating from the DRC were confined to one cell and refused the right to leave the room for meals or to mingle with the other detainees. Not only does this constitute gross violation of the detainees’ basic human rights and respect for their dignity, but isolation and collective punishment is unlawful under our Constitution.

LHR is calling for a broader inquiry into the ongoing complaints of abuse and human rights violations at the facility. These abuses and inhumane detention conditions have documented over the past 16 years by various human rights groups, universities and the SAHRC . Sadly, all calls for independent oversight of the detention facility have been met with distain by the authorities that run the Lindela Repatriation Centre.

We also urge the Minister of Home Affairs to take action against the BOSASA Group.

For more information, please contact Sharon Ekambaram, Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme Manager on 011 339 1960 or Carol Mohlala, Media and Communications Manager on 079 238 9826