Lindela refugee case postponed to August 6
The first group of the over 200 male refugees and asylum seekers arrested for camping outside the Lindela detention centre had their case postponed to August 6 in the Krugersdorp District Court on Wednesday.
Magistrate Erina Breedt ordered that they remain in the Krugersdorp police cells so that their documentation could be fully determined and a legal aid board attorney consult with them.
They face charges under the Road Traffic Act for allegedly hindering and obstructing traffic on the R28 between Krugersdorp and Randfontein.
Two hundred and three men were arrested, court prosecutor Engela Van Der Merwe said before the court started.
Due to the size of the group police brought them up from the holding cells in groups of between 40 to 50 people and arranged them in the court according to the order of the charge sheet.
The men, looking tired and holding sleeping bags and blankets, stood up one by one to take up the court’s offer of legal aid.
Breedt ordered a French interpreter to explain their rights to them. The group had been living on the verge of the R28 highway between Krugersdorp and Randfontein for a week after being transferred from a shelter for xenophobia victims in Glenanda, Johannesburg, to the Lindela in Krugersdorp.
They had refused to register at the Glenanda camp, fearing that temporary identity cards would cancel their existing rights as immigrants.
As a result they were taken to Lindela, a facility which detains foreigners believed to be in the country illegally.
But officials discovered that they were in the country legally and released them to return to their South African homes. The Department of Home Affairs validated the documents that allowed them residence in South Africa and said that the refugees were now “on their own”.
The immigrants stayed on the side of the road, saying they were too scared to return to their communities and would rather be repatriated.
They were given until Monday to leave the roadside.
On Monday afternoon the women and men were rounded up by police. The women were taken to a place of safety and the men were arrested.
A wave of xenophobic attacks started in Alexandra township on May 12 and then spread around the country, leaving more than 62 people dead and an estimated 17 000 displaced, according to police. - Sapa