Unlawful Detention: An Expensive Mistake for Governments

A woman in South Africa has been awarded R180,000 in damages – USD $15,500 – after being detained  local police in September 2017 has been proven by the Pretoria Regional Court to be unlawful. The woman was detained for over 72 hours in a cell with her eight-month old baby.

The consequences of this illegal detention have proven to be an expensive misstep for the South African Government and a horrific ordeal for the woman involved. The woman was accused of being an illegal foreigner despite having a valid permit with her at the time. The police involved have also been found to have pressured the woman to bribe them for her release.

The ordeal highlights the issue of the unconscionable enforcement of immigration policies, and the window of abuse it can leave open.

Challenges with enforcement are not limited to one nation alone, in fact many can be seen across the Middle East North Africa region.

In Jordan, a migrant worker was held in detention for thirteen months without being referred to a judge, resulted in a court-ordered award of compensation with the detention being deemed as ‘arbitrary’.  The man was jailed through no fault of his own since his employer was responsible for renewing his work permit but failed to do so.  The court described his detention as violating both domestic and international law.  Inconsistent practices by law enforcement and public security bodies have led to many similar injustices in Jordan.

Uganda also recently saw six senior police officers facing a military court for immigration misconduct and corruption. The officers are accused of abusing and extorting refugees, while also threatening to repatriate any person who reported their behaviour. The arrests have hurt the reputation of a country that prides itself on having a welcoming attitude to refugees in the region.

 

Israel recently had an expensive compensation case due to the improper enforcement of their temporary permit policy. The government has been required to pay out over USD $120,000 to five African asylum seekers who were illegally detained by the immigration authorities. The five migrants all qualified for temporary resident status, however after living and working in Israel for six years the group were summoned and illegally held at the Holot detention facility for over three years. The mental and financial stress caused by the period of detention could have been easily avoided if the Israeli government had adopted an alternative model that was human rights compliant, and ensured that enforcement was consistent and thorough.

 

In April of 2017 the government of Botswana was involved in an expensive and lengthy legal case that was instigated by several refugees who were detained at Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. The group have argued that despite being detained at the centre for several months, they were yet to be provided with a reason for their detention. On April 13, the presiding Judge ordered that seven residents be released and their detention was ruled as ‘unlawful’.

 

The ongoing theme of expensive and time-consuming cases for compensation has come about due to the wrongful exercise of immigration policies. In enforcing a model that allows the abuse and neglect of refugees and migrants to occur, governments are ignoring the alternatives. There are alternatives to these models that are human rights compliant, are more effective and are economically beneficial. Find out more about these alternatives here.