More than 200 refugees and asylum-seekers arrested for camping by the roadside last week may have had their charges dropped, but they were not freed. On Wednesday, the men appeared in smaller groups so they could fit into the public gallery in Court D at the Krugersdorp magistrate’s court, until all 204 had been informed of the withdrawal of charges. In the absence of interpreters due to the strike, magistrate Erina Breedt asked those who understood English to interpret for others.
Breedt said although the state had decided not to continue with criminal charges, administration processes were still going to take place. Administration processes meant that the men would be taken back to Lindela repatriation centre outside Krugersdorp for their immigration status to be verified.
Those found eligible to be in the country would be freed, while illegal immigrants would be deported to their different countries. The men were part of thousands of foreign nationals displaced by the xenophobic violence. Following the violence in May, the men, along with their families, were provided with temporary shelter at the Glenanda safety camp. When the camp closed down last month, the immigrants were taken to Lindela, but it later emerged that some were documented and allowed to be in the country.
After being released from Lindela, hundreds set up camp along the R28 highway between Krugersdorp and Randfontein for fear of experiencing further victimisation in the townships. Police were called in to remove them and more than 200 men were arrested for violating the road traffic act Women and children were moved to a place of safety, while the men were kept in jail until Wednesday.