On the 20th of June 2022 Africa Unite in collaboration with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Refugee Rights Units (RRU) hosted the 3rd Immigration Orientation session at the Bertha House Centre for Activists in Mowbray outside of the Cape Town city limits, this session is the 3rd in a series of talks and workshops orienting migrant and refugee communities in South Africa. This program seeks to alleviate the tension and conflict arising between migrant communities, law enforcement agencies, and locals.
The session was dubbed “Know your Rights” and attracted 25 participants (18 females, 5 males, and 2 non-binary) from various African countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Rwanda respectively). The session covered Detention and Deportation presented by Shazia Sader the Supervising Attorney at the RRU and Olivia McCarthy a Candidate Attorney for the UCT RRU.
The session covered the fundamental reasons and process of detention and deportation as well as the current trends regarding this in South Africa. More pertinently, the grounds and agent of detention were laid out as follows;
• An immigration officer or police officer may interview and/or detain you without a warrant if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that you are not legally in South Africa
• The immigration officer or police officer may not hold you for more than 48 hours to identify you. During this time, immigration officers and police officers must assist the suspected person in verifying their status by:
• Allowing access to relevant documents that may be readily available, or contacting relatives or other persons who can assist in providing such identity and status and accessing departmental records in this regard
Shazia also explored the constitutional protections while in detention, such as being deported back to a country where your life will be placed at risk, some of the highlighted sections of the constitution are;
• Section 28 of the Bill of Rights – a child may not be held in detention with adults
• Section 33 of the Bill of Rights – the right to just administrative action
• Section 34 of the Bill of Rights – the right to have access to courts to have a fair hearing/trial
• Section 35 of the Bill of Rights – to be informed of the reasons for your detention
This set of information and protections left the participants in awe and lead to a flurry of questions about the validity of these constitutional protections. The facilitator pointed out that if any unlawful acts were taking place that it was up to the participants to report these officers to the relevant authorities and Ombudsman.
A particular practice was pointed out where, authorities arrest and then release detained persons, then immediately request the foreigner to present them with a document, knowing they cannot present it. The authorities then re-arrest them and start the period over. Acts such as these should be documented and reported immediately.
Lastly, the topic of Section 34 documents was brought up this is a procedure that speaks about the process to be followed to confirm deportation. A case study was presented, and in 2017, this matter was taken to the constitutional court and section 34 C and D was determined to be invalid and unconstitutional.
The participants immediately engaged with their personal experiences and requested the RRU keep running these informative sessions. The participants also booked hearings with the RRU to assist them in their documentation issues.
This is the third part in a series of Immigration orientation sessions and the third in the “Know your Rights” sub-series, Africa Unite will continue to host subsequent information sessions to bridge the knowledge and information gap between immigrants and locals.