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South Africa: Displaced people should not be forcibly removed from camps

Amnesty International has condemned the South African police’s recent forcible removals of more than 700 refugees and asylum-seekers from the Glenanda ("Rifle Range Road") displacement camp near Johannesburg to Lindela Repatriation Centre.

On 22 July, police forcibly removed people from the camp after officials began to implement a registration and temporary residence permit system for the thousands of people who remain internally displaced by anti-foreigner violence which erupted in May in Gauteng, Western Cape, Durban and elsewhere in the country. Those people are now at risk of being expelled from South Africa.

A similar incident occurred on 17 July, when police used excessive force against residents at the Glenanda site, injuring 23 people who were shot at close range with rubber bullets.

Amnesty International has called for a full investigation into this incident.

Those removed at the Glenanda camp had apparently not registered and so did not have the new identity documents.

Amnesty International said:

"The new registration process has led to confusion, increased tension and a reluctance among some people at the displacement sites to register. There's been a lack of good, clear information about the process and its implications.

"We have told the government of our concerns about the manner of the introduction of this new system, including the lack of clarity about the effect of the new permit on people's existing legal status. This is particularly crucial for those who have existing refugee or other legal rights of residence."

The organisation also condemned the way officials had denied access to adequate food to those who failed to go through the registration process at the Glenanda camp. This constitutes a violation of South Africa’s obligations under international law.

Amnesty International called on the South African government to uphold its human rights obligations and not forcibly return asylum-seekers and others in need of international protection to the countries they have fled.

Amnesty International delegates visited some of the sites for displaced people earlier in July and heard cases of individuals who had attempted to return to their former homes but had been verbally threatened or physically attacked.

Amnesty International said:

"We appeal to the government not to precipitously close these sites. There is growing pressure on people in these camps to re-integrate back into local communities without there being a safe and sustainable reintegration plan in place.

“Many of these people are still suffering trauma from the violent attacks and property destruction in May. The government needs to explain much more fully to them what the implications of the registration process are, and to ensure their human rights are not violated.”

On 23 May 2008 Amnesty International called on the South African government to take all necessary measures to protect the human rights of people at continuing risk of violent attacks and displacement from their homes on the basis of their perceived ethnic origins or status as “foreigners” or asylum-seekers.

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