Doctors slam police raid on Zim refugees

The police raid on the Johannesburg Central Methodist Church will affect the mental and physical health of Zimbabwean migrants, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on Tuesday.

“The South African Constitution guarantees access to healthcare services to all those who live in the country. However, devastating operations like the recent raid at the Methodist Church undermine Zimbabwean migrants’ access to health services,” said Sharon Ekambaram, MSF’s general director.

The morning after the raid and detention of about 300 migrants, the MSF team had access to the detainees taken to Johannesburg Central police station and was able to assess their health conditions.

“Some had suspected fractured ribs and possible lung contusions after receiving blows. Others were under HIV or TB treatment and didn’t get the amount of food required to take their medications,” MSF said in a statement.

MSF said medication had been left behind for some of the patients, but the police officers failed to give the refugees the drugs—although they had promised to do so.

The team also identified signs of deterioration of the mental health of detainees.

“The cells were overcrowded, the detainees were scared and hungry. They were being shouted at and verbally abused. They felt humiliated, were crying and some were in a state of panic.”

Ekambaram said these actions increased the state of stress and fear of this already vulnerable population and might prevent them from seeking healthcare.

MSF has been providing healthcare to migrants living at the Central Methodist Church and in the Musina area in Limpopo, and facilitating their access to health structures.

Police arrested a number of migrants at the church in downtown Johannesburg during an anti-crime operation in the inner city last week.

Police said a total of 500 people were arrested during the raid on various buildings in the inner city.

Some of the arrested Zimbabweans were released, while 15 were still in custody pending a bail application at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. - Sapa

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