SA Trade Unions Federation demands end to jailing of migrant labourers


By Staff Reporter


South Africa’s Federation of Trade Unions is tomorrow expected to occupy a government-run detention facility in Pretoria to protest against alleged state institutionalised exonophobia targeted at undocumented economic migrant labourers.


In a call for class action to occupy Lindela Detention Centre, SAFTU stated in a press release on Tuesday that the protest action was in line with World Refugee Day which falls on June 20 every year.


According to the Federation, the use of detention and deportation of migrants as a way of managing migration, amounts to criminalisation of the poor.


“There is nothing to celebrate given the horrendous conditions of detention at Lindela. We call on the workers of South Africa to support this call. The use of detention and deportation of migrants as a way of managing migration amounts to the criminalisation of the poor,” the call to action read. “Migrant labour was exploited by the apartheid regime which housed black workers in inhuman condition in hostels. SAFTU denounces the current practice of the Department of Home Affairs against foreign nationals who are vulnerable and destitute, many fleeing horrific conflict and violence coming to South Africa. This practice has all the hallmarks of institutional xenophobia is an extension of the way in which the apartheid regime treated Black African people.”


Lindela Repatrition Centre, whose management the government has outsourced to a private company, is meant to be a temporary place to house undocumented migrants awaiting deportation from South Africa.


“The only offence that the detainees have committed is that they did not have the documentation required to be in South Africa as foreign nationals. With no oversight and in the absence of a functioning independent institutional mechanism to have oversight, Busasa – the privately owned company – runs the detention centre with brute force according to various reports,” SAFTU stated further. “The conditions of detention in and of itself is unconstitutional. It strips predominantly black migrants of all their dignity and strips them of their basic human rights.”


SAFTU expressed outrage that such afunction was outsourced and demanded that the Department of Home Affairs immediately ends the current contract with Busasa.


“Law enforcement agents in South Africa, including the SAPS and immigration officials target black people unlawfully and ‘Operation Fiela’ is one such example.  It is unlawful to use mass operations to hunt down people and demand that they produce documents. This is a relic of a horrible and painful past – known to all as the dompas system, where the apartheid police enforced, through military repression road blocks and raids against black African people in South Africa demanding proof of documentation,” SAFTU noted. “Ultimately such measures push migrants and migrant workers underground, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by farmers and especially the hospitality industry. SAFTU commits itself to prioritising and concentrating all its resources to working with civil society to ensure that we organise migrant workers, be they domestic workers, or waiters in the hospitality sector or farmworkers or mineworkers in our struggle for decent pay for decent work for all living in South Africa.”


SAFTU recognised that the most oppressed sections of the working class, the most vulnerable are Black African women, whether as unpaid workers working as care givers, or as workers paid slave wages as domestic workers, as sex workers or as exploited undocumented migrants in the country.


“Repressive measures to arrest and detain migrants makes black migrant women more vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence, currently endemic in our country.  Ultimately this is a direct consequence of a capitalist patriarchal society which results in this vulnerability based on excessive exploitation and discrimination and is unconstitutional,” the notice read further. “SAFTU view this Occupation as part of on-going struggles of workers, communities and young people in demand for a better and just South Africa, which we plan to engage in the coming Working Class Summit. We recognise that migrants are a vital part of the South African working class and any talk of labour justice without migrant justice means complicity in the marginalisation and oppression of the increasingly great number of our class.”




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