[ 19. Feb 2011 ]

Monitoring Immigration Detention in South Africa

Cover: Monitoring Immigration Detention in South Africa, September 2011

This report is based on Lawyers for Human Rights' (LHR) findings through its consultations with detainees, and its ongoing litigation brought against the Department in the period from January 2009 to August 2010.


LHR's Detention Monitoring Programme has been monitoring the arrest, detention and deportation of foreign nationals at local detention centres, primarily the Lindela Holding Facility and the Musina Detention Centre (SMG), for the past decade. In certain instances, the organisation also intervenes in detentions occurring at police stations, prisons, or at the OR Tambo International Airport. The Detention Monitoring Programme operates mainly from LHR's Johannesburg and Musina offices. LHR's law clinics in Pretoria and Durban also assist asylum seekers who are detained at police stations or at the refugee reception offices.

Lawyers for Human Rights is the only organisation that regularly visits Lindela and provides pro bono legal representation to detainees. Through these consultations, we are able to identify immigration trends and legal issues confronting detainees, as well as shifts in the policies of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the South African Police Services (SAPS). Our consultations with detainees also provide us with information about conditions at the facility and the treatment of detainees—an important window into the detention experience given the lack of any independent monitoring.

Conclusion of the report

The system of immigration detention in South Africa is plagued with problems, largely stemming from failures to adhere to the law. The passage of the Immigration Act ushered in a new era of immigration enforcement that established a series of procedural guarantees intended to bound the actions of government and avoid abuse. The failure to adhere to these laws, and to implement court orders upholding the rights of detainees in accordance with these laws, has set the stage for abuse. Detentions that occur outside of the law not only defeat the purpose of legislation, they also undermine the Constitution and the rule of law. Greater accountability and adherence to the law is needed both to protect the rights of individuals, and to ensure that public institutions live up to their obligation to uphold the law and to give effect to Constitutional guarantees.

Source ::, September 2010.