According to some reports, there was no riot at the Lindela Repatriation Centre outside Krugersdorp, the Department of Home Affairs said on Tuesday. However, a government spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, denied there was a riot at the centre on Monday as reported by some media on the 12th of June 2012.
He stated: “Our reports are contrary to that. Our understanding is that inmates were trying to force early release from the centre.” In addition, he promptly denied reports that there were violent confrontations between guards and inmates at the centre.
According to the Immigration Act, the department cannot detain refugees for more than 120 days.
“There is a trend developing where inmates refuse to supply details of their nationalities, which leads to delays because we cannot contact their embassies,” Mamoepa said. And in conjunction with this, the department was powerless to deport inmates or process their applications without consulting the relevant embassy.
This put the department in a “difficult position” because inmates were sometimes kept longer than 120 days because of the lack of co-operation, he said. While Mamoepa has made his statement, The Times newspaper reported on the 12th of June 2012 that inmates of the West Rand refugee centre staged a protest that turned violent when guards fired rubber bullets and teargas.
The reason given for the alleged riot was that the department held them for periods longer than the permitted 120 days. A Lindela inmate, who asked not to be named, said he had signed a document for his release on Thursday after being detained for more than three months. “Instead of being released together with other inmates, we were taken to different police stations where we spent the night.”
They were then returned to the repatriation centre. Department of Home Affairs spokeswoman Manusha Pillai also denied there was a riot on Monday. “Some of the deportees, however, allegedly attempted to incite others to riot against the department’s mandate to deport foreign nationals, in breach of South Africa’s immigration law,” she told the newspaper.
This comes in the face of numerous court cases against the Department of Home Affairs from people seeking various types of immigration permits (for example, the Life Partner Permit, Spousal Permit and different kinds of Work Permit). It will remain to be seen how Home Affairs slowly improves its turnaround times as stipulated in the Immigration Act, across all types of permits.