THE Ethiopian asylum seeker who was illegally detained for more than nine months at the Lindela Repatriation Centre is now a free man.
The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the Department of Home Affairs had no legal basis to continue detaining the Ethopian opposition political activist.
The court also found that the department did not possess the necessary documents required to detain someone for more than 30 days.
The department was heavily criticised for either not understanding the law or choosing to ignore it.
Gina Snyman of Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which represents the man, said the department failed to adhere to legal prescriptions guiding the process of detaining asylum seekers.
"Home Affairs consistently disregards the law in its practice of detaining asylum seekers and other migrants at Lindela," Snyman said.
"There are many individuals at Lindela who have been held beyond the 120 day period permitted by law and many who are held without the department properly obtaining the legally required warrants. The effect is that these detentions are occurring outside of the law."
Her client Malaika* , 25, arrived in South Africa on December 8 2008, fleeing persecution for being a member of the ethnic Oromo Liberation Front in Ethiopia.
After failing to renew his 14-day temporary permit Malaika was arrested and detained for a week at the Queenstown police station in Eastern Cape before he was sent to Lindela, where he remained from May 26 2009.
Malaika told Sowetan he feared being deported back to Ethiopia.
"If they [government] forces me to go back to Ethiopia the Ethiopian government will immediately execute me. I want the South African government to save my life.
"The government gave us a permit to act as a political party but we have no rights. People are killed for being Oromo."
The temporary permit he received on February 25, expires in a month's time after which he will have to renew it continuously until the Refugee Appeals Board makes a final decision regarding his application for permanent residence.
* Not his real name