Shut down Lindela, say protesters
After waiting for two hours outside the Lindela Transit Holding Centre on the West Rand and being refused permission to see his brother, Ikie Bhatty joined scores of demonstrators demanding its closure on Friday.
The protesters were clad in red T-shirts and carried placards saying, "Shut down Lindela."
The protesters included foreign nationals and concerned groups such as the Anti-Privatisation Forum, Soweto Concerned Residents and Students against Xenophobia.
They said Lindela was like a "concentration camp" where detainees' human rights were violated.
Bhatty, a Pakistani national, said his brother Munweer had been "wrongfully arrested" at the Department of Home Affairs office in Marabastad, Pretoria.
"Officials are demanding R30000 for his release but he has done nothing wrong," Bhatty said.
He said his brother had been sent to Lindela despite having an asylum seeker's permit that allowed him to stay in South Africa.
The demonstrators chanted slogans such as "No justice, no peace, we are all refugees" and "No one is illegal" and demanded a continent "without borders" that allowed free migration.
Organiser Steve Faulkner said Lindela was "a symbol of all that is wrong with the government's immigration and economic policies".
"Their problems will not be solved by barbed wire but by economic policies that address poverty," Faulkner said.
The Coalition Against Xenophobia said in a statement that detainees' human rights were violated and that "corruption is commonplace".
"Detainees are deprived of basics such as food and blankets, are routinely abused and beaten and have even died while in detention at Lindela," it said.
Ronney Marhule of the Department of Home Affairs rejected the protesters' allegations.
"Detainees have access to medical facilities and have three meals a day," he said.
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