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South African Police Sometimes Ignore The Law In Enforcing Immigration Act, Says Human Rights Lawyer

South African Police Sometimes Ignore The Law In Enforcing Immigration Act, Says Human Rights Lawyer

Renowned human rights lawyer Advocate Gabriel Shumba, has criticized the manner in which some members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) enforce the Immigration Act.

Several foreign nationals in South Africa have over the years complained of how police in the Rainbow Nation sometimes violate the law, by carrying out unauthorised searches and detention.

Shumba, in an interview with South African publication IOL, said while the SAPS has a mandate to enforce the Imigration Act, sometimes they go overboard in doing so. He said:

Section 41 of the Immigration Act of 2002 gives the police and immigration officials the power to request identification on “reasonable grounds” that a suspect is an illegal foreigner or a non-national.

What is reasonable or not reasonable depends on the circumstances of each case. There are exceptions in that if the officials do not properly identify themselves, there is no obligation to comply.

This power must also be exercised on the basis of reasonable suspicion, not arbitrarily or based on xenophobia and discrimination because if that happens, such action becomes unconstitutional and ipso facto reviewable.

Shumba also questioned the rationale of South African authorities forcing citizens to carry identification documents all the time. He said:

Identification should just be easily accessible when needed. This is of course different from a driving licence which has to be present when one is driving.

In the main, proper procedures have to be followed, but unfortunately, there are reports of police destroying asylum documents and carrying out unauthorised stoppages, searches and detention.

There is need for more education and training in order to cultivate a more human rights-friendly police force so that we wean ourselves from our apartheid past.

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