The South African Federation of Trade Unions supports the Occupy Lindela event to mark World Refugee Day this Wednesday 20 June 2018.
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.
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.
The South African Government and the Department of Home Affairs has outsourced through a tender process the management and running of the country’s detention centre. Lindela Repatrition Centre 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. 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 is outraged that this function is outsourced and demands 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.
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 recognises 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.
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.