Aline Bukuru, one of the representatives of the refugees’ 2019/20 refugee protest in Cape Town has been separated from her three children who remain in the Bellville camp without a guardian. She has overstayed her detention and is yet to be released for deportation from the Lindela Repatriation Centre.
Bukuru has been held for 162 days, against the 120 days stipulated by law, before deportation. Her children, aged 13, 14 and 16, remain in Bellville camp without a custodian.
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) visited Aline Bukuru on March 17 for a consultation at Lindela Repatriation Centre, where she currently awaits deportation.
Attorney Charné Tracey stated the intention for seeing Aline was “to assess if her claim to refugee status in South Africa is strong and credible enough to warrant a High Court review.”
Refugee leader Hafiz Mohammed noted Bukuru, who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), had appeared at Bellville Magistrate Court on March 2 and an order for her deportation has been issued.
Bukuru, along with hundreds of refugees from the Bellville camp, were detained by the Department of Home Affairs on October 28. According to Mohammed, 19 had returned, 30 had gone to Lindela, and ten people went missing. “We have not heard from them and their families are worried,” Mohammed remarked.
The refugee camps in Bellville and Kensington arose from a protest outside the offices of the UNHCR by refugees who ended up spending months on Greenmarket Square.
Bukuru says she feels targeted for deportation saying that she had been in the country for 11 years and had made effort to renew her papers on time.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Kate Pond said while UNHCR is not able to comment on individual cases, it consistently advocates that everyone who is in need of international protection cannot be returned to their countries of origin until their claims have been properly assessed by the competent authorities, in accordance with the law.
The government assessed the asylum claims of all of the protesters in October and November, during which some people were found to be no longer in need of international protection. They are now subject to immigration laws like every other foreign nationals.
In the Refugee Status Determination Officer (RSDO) interview dated July 18, 2011, Bukuru pointed out she fled the Mai Mai movement. In her appeal documents in 2014, Bukuru said fearing for her life she fled her home in South Kivu to South Africa in 2008. The Mai Mai killed her mother in-law and brother in 2007.