out of jail, into LINDELA

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

More than 200 male foreign nationals who appeared in the Krugersdorp district court yesterday were taken back to the Lindela repatriation centre amid fears that they will be deported.

The 204 men were released and dumped at Lindela for their legal status to be determined after the charge - obstructing the flow of traffic - was withdrawn after eight days behind bars.

Magistrate Erina Breedt said the state had decided not to proceed with the case but that the men would be dealt with "administratively".

The group was arrested on July 28 for obstructing the flow of traffic on the R28 on the West Rand. Women and children were not charged but taken to a place of safety.

The refugees and asylum seekers had camped on the side of the road following their release from Lindela after their legal status was verified by the Department of Home Affairs.

They were taken to the centre when they refused to register for temporary identification cards issued by the department at the Glenanda shelter, south of Johannesburg.

About 3000 foreign nationals were placed at six tent shelters in the aftermath of xenophobic violence that erupted on May 11.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) feared that the immigrants faced deportation though their legal status was previously verified by the department.

Gina Snyman of the LHR said the immigrants had "suffered extreme injustices" and that they should not have been arrested.

She said the LHR was concerned after reports that the foreign nationals might have been manipulated into "relinquishing" their legal status.

Snyman said the LHR was informed that some of the immigrants' documentation was taken from them while they were in custody. She said this would reduce them to illegal immigrants who could be deported.

The government has said it would oppose a high court application to delay the closure of temporary shelters until a reintegration strategy was in place.

It has given foreigners until next Friday to vacate the tents they have occupied for two months .