Surplus People ? Undocumented and Other Vulnerable Migrants in South Africa

FIDH releases today a fact-finding mission report entitled “Surplus People ? Undocumented and Other Vulnerable Migrants in South Africa”. As growing domestic and international concerns have been expressed regarding the human rights situation of undocumented and other vulnerable migrants in South Africa, FIDH conducted an international fact-finding mission to examine the legal and policy framework applying to their entry and stay as well as their actual working and living conditions.

Even though both international and South African law protects the human rights of migrants, undocumented migrants, who represent around 500 000 persons in South Africa, are amongst the most exposed to human rights violations.

The report emphasizes the most worrying human rights violations perpetrated against migrants including abuses in the asylum application process, arbitrary or illegal arrests, detention and deportations, exploitation at work, restricted access to health services and facilities, precarious living conditions, limited access to education or lack of effective remedies.

These ongoing human rights violations are the result of the South African migration policy geared towards security concerns and population control. They are also due to the prevalent xenophobic feelings against Black Africans and based on the vision that migrants are linked with, or even responsible for, social ills and crimes.

The report is illustrated with testimonies of documented and undocumented migrants, coming from various African countries. These interviews gave the mission the opportunity to have a glimpse at personal itineraries as well as conditions of arrest and detention.

I was arrested in Durban. I was on the street, talking with other people when the police came and checked our ID. I was detained in the police station for a week and then held in Westwille jail, in Durban, for a month with other undocumented migrants. I was sent to Lindela in July 2006. Since I arrived here, I never spoke to an immigration official nor to a lawyer [...] I don’t expect to be released” revealed a Chadian inmate at Lindela detention centre.

In order to prevent and redress current and future human rights violations, FIDH called on the South African authorities to reinforce their human-rights-based legal framework to protect migrants from abuses. FIDH also urged South Africa to ensure respect for due process and migrants’ rights and dignity throughout arrest, detention and deportation.

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