South Africa

GroundUp: Catch 22 for refugee in prison

By GroundUp 26 July 2017

A Somali has been denied parole as he is unable to renew documentation. By Tariro Washinyira for GROUNDUP.

First published by Groundup

Abdulkadir Mohammed Faghi is a Somali refugee who was convicted in September 2011 for car theft, fraud and forgery. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He became eligible for parole in November 2015, but it has always been denied on the basis that his documents are not in order. The catch is that he cannot renew his papers while he is in prison.

Faghi’s wife and his 12-year-old daughter are devastated by the situation, says his brother. He also says the family is surviving on hand-outs from other Somalis in Mannenberg. He and other Somalis have contacted various organisations for help, some of which have visited Faghi in prison.

Speaking on the phone from Helderstroom prison, Faghi said: “I appeared before the parole board four times – on 19 August 2015, 30 March 2016 and November 2016. I last appeared on 25 April 2017. I should appear again in January next year.”

But, he says, parole is always denied on the basis that his documents are not in order. They have expired he says and he cannot renew his document while he is in prison.

Singabakho Nxumalo of the Department of Correctional Services said that the Department of Home Affairs confirmed that Faghi’s permit to reside in South Africa has expired; that he would therefore not be able to be placed on parole; and that this is in line with the Immigration Act.

Yet Aleck Kuhudzai, Programme Director of the Refugee Legal and Advocacy Centre, said: “It is the duty of Home Affairs to ensure that all asylum seekers and refugees are assisted in renewing their permits by taking them to the refuge office and facilitating the extension. The inmate cannot be denied parole on the basis that the permit has expired when they (Correctional Services) have done nothing to facilitate extension.”

Home Affairs Liaison Officer Thabo Mokgola said: “Immigrant prisoners lose the asylum and refugee status granted to them and become eligible for deportation.” He said the inmate should be released to Home Affairs immigration officers and deported.

But Kuhudzai said deportation of prisoners who are refugees is a violation of Section 2 of the Refugees Act. He said refugees cannot be returned to the country from which they have fled. DM

Photo: Helderstroom Prison in the Western Cape. Satellite photo from Google Maps.


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