Human Rights Watch has called on the government to stop the deportation of Zimbabwean citizens who fled their country because of repression.
HRW researcher Gerry Simpson told a media briefing in Johannesburg yesterday that the government was breaching international refugee law by continuously deporting Zimbabweans.
"The South African government can only end its violation of international refugee law by ending the deportation of all Zimbabweans," he said.
He said the government should adopt a policy that grants Zimbabweans a temporary right to remain and work in the country. Temporary could mean anything between 12 months and two years.
It also depends on the situation in Zimbabwe, which has led to thousands fleeing to South Africa.
"Granting them that status would allow them to work and send goods back home," Simpson said. "That will prevent the influx of women and children into South Africa."
He said the government's decision to treat Zimbabweans as voluntary economic migrants has led to South Africa's failure to respond effectively to stop the human rights abuses and economic deprivation that caused their flight.
The report also says that granting Zimbabweans a temporary right to stay in South Africa would help protect them against exploitation and violence.
The report attacks the government's quiet diplomacy approach which, it says, failed to hold President Robert Mugabe accountable for undertakings made to the Southern African Development Community.
"In line with the SADC's deafening silence on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe for the past eight years, the South African government also repeatedly failed to condemn the serious rights violations carried out by Zimbabwean security forces," he said.
Simpson said the HRW had engaged the SA Communist Party and the Congress of SA Trade Unions and a report had been submitted to the government.
He could not elaborate on reasons that led to the HRW not meeting with the country's opposition parties.