Last week, the Department of Home Affairs detained 25 foreign nationals for contravening the Immigration Act during raids conducted at China City in Milnerton and Canal Walk in Century City. Activists have condemned the arrests. They say that some of those arrested are "without doubt" people that are undocumented because Home Affairs has failed to reopen a fully functional refugee centre in Cape Town, despite a court order.
"Home Affairs has deliberately defied an order by a court of law to reopen the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office by the 31 March 2018 ... Now they are embarking on raids to deport 'illegal immigrants', but without doubt, some of those immigrants were made illegal by Home Affairs itself," said Anthony Muteti of African Voice for Change.
"We continue to hear mundane excuses given by Home Affairs for failing to follow the ruling. Assuming that logistical reasons really exist, why is the department arresting undocumented immigrants when it is failing to serve them? Is the department assuming that all the undocumented immigrants just vanished when they could not be helped?" asked Muteti.
In a statement on 10 May, Home Affairs said it had "in conjunction with the police, conducted raids on businesses employing illegal foreign nationals ... Random inspections at places of employment are conducted to ensure employers of foreign nationals comply with immigration laws. Employing foreigners who are not in possession of enabling documents is an offence." The manager of a restaurant would be charged with employing "illegal foreign nationals", the department said.
"The department, working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, will continue to enforce immigration legislation with no respite ... Those who persist in flouting immigration and labour laws of the country will face the full might of the law," the statement said.
Among the 25 immigrants detained at Milnerton police station was a minor who has a baby and is still breastfeeding. Her aunt told GroundUp on Monday morning that police refused to release her. The family said the young mother had not appeared before a magistrate since her arrest on 9 May, despite the Constitutional Court having ordered that all detainees held under the Immigration Act be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours.