Human rights activists have slammed South African authorities for netting at least 1 000 suspected illegal migrants in crackdown called Operation Cleansweep.
The organisation Lawyers for Human Rights won a court application yesterday (Monday) delaying the deportation of about 400 of the people detained.
The raids follow last months xenophobic attacks in Durban and Johannesburg secured a successful
court application to delay the deportation of about 400 immigrants held by the
authorities in Friday’s raid.
Immigrant workers from Zimbabwe, Malawi and other African countries were
targeted in weeks of unrest that left at least seven people dead and forced
thousands to flee their homes.
The South Africa government sent the army in to help police arrest
ringleaders behind the attacks, but it also launched a series of raids to pick
up hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants.
In the latest raid, about 400 immigrants were arrested last Friday in an
operation at the Central Methodist Church, a renowned shelter for refugees in
“Large sections of police have been unleashed on people,” Steve Faulkner,
of the Coalition of Movements Against Xenophobia, told reporters.
“It was a military operation in the middle of the night… People were
herded together and taken to the police station.”
Right to Know, a campaign group, called the mass arrests “state-funded
“The raids were a heavy-handed response that have seen families being
separated and led to various human rights abuses,” Murray Hunter, spokesman
for the group.
Millions of African migrants — many of them illegal — work in South
Africa, often on construction sites or as casual labour.
Locals often blame them for stealing scarce jobs.
“We are very worried about how quick these deportations are taking place
after the manner of the raids,” said Wayne Ncube, a human rights lawyer.
The government has defended Operation Fiela, meaning “clean sweep”, and
said raids on workers’ hostels and informal settlements would continue.