XENOPHOBIA RIFE IN GOVT, SAYS RIGHTS BODY

The Mercury, 1 August 2008

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Xenophobic tendencies among Department of Home Affairs officials are one of the many concerns raised in a damning South African Human Rights Commission report. The latest report on the department's treatment of non-nationals also says that despite calls for a moratorium on arrests and deportation for all those affected by the recent xenophobic attacks, it has deported almost 20 000 people in recent weeks, mostly Zimbabweans. The report, released yesterday, also hits out at the department for its "inadequate response to the (xenophobic) crisis and the continuing influx of migrants to South Africa". "The commission has had a number of conversations with department officials that raise concerns regarding xenophobic tendencies within the department. Officials repeatedly referred to non-nationals as 'those people' and 'outsiders', distinguishing them from the department's South African clientele," said the report. "This is unacceptable in a department whose mission includes serving non-nationals seeking refuge in South Africa and under South African law." The report listed human rights concerns such as the lengthy queues, unacceptably long waiting times and corruption within the department, as well as the issuing of temporary identification cards. "The queue of non-nationals waiting to put in their application for asylum is the most visible manifestation of the systemic problems within the department. Individuals applying for asylum face queues that are days or even weeks long. "Non-nationals waiting in the queue have no access to water, food, shelter, toilets, basic medical care, or any other necessary services," said the report, adding that the department was responsible for their "well-being". The commission said that with the new Western Cape pick-up point for asylum seekers located in Nyanga, it had concerns about their safety and security. "The rights of non-nationals were also being violated as waiting times were "unacceptably long". "The department is not processing enough non-nationals on a daily basis, giving rise to unacceptably long wait times. This represents a form of 'bureaucratic violence', in which the human rights of non-nationals are violated by endless waits, callous treatment by officials, unclear and often arbitrary instructions and continually changing processes without advance notice."