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08 Jan 2009 13:27
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday urged South Africa to stop deporting Zimbabweans fleeing the humanitarian disaster in their country and grant them temporary shelter instead.
“To avoid deportation from South Africa, Zimbabweans currently have no option but to claim asylum, placing even greater pressure on a system already struggling to process refugee claims according to international standards,” HRW said in a statement.
It is estimated that about 25 000 to 30 000 Zimbabweans applied for asylum in of Musina during the last five months of 2008, the rights body said.
The figure is close to double the total Zimbabwean asylum applications lodged in South Africa last year, HRW said.
The figure is also more than half of the total number of asylum claims made by all nationalities in the same year, it added, saying that South Africa’s asylum system had more than 100 000 unresolved cases.
Gerry Simpson, HRW refugee researcher said the country’s “buckling asylum system” was not working to meet the needs of more than a million Zimbabweans in South Africa.
“To effectively protect Zimbabweans and to stop violating international law, the government needs to halt deportations and to grant Zimbabweans temporary status.”
A 2008 HRW report said that the “often-unlawful” deportation of more than 250 000 Zimbabweans per year meant that South Africa violated the most basic principle of refugee law, the right not to be forcibly returned to persecution.
Zimbabwe is currently battling a deadly cholera epidemic that has killed more than 1 700 people, hyper-inflation, severe food shortages and chronic political instability.—Sapa-AFP
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