Lawyers for Human Rights says South Africa continues to arrest and deport asylum seekers, forgetting that they too sacrificed to build this country’s economy and democracy.

Various organisations held a picket outside the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp, west of Gauteng, to mark World Refugee Day.

They also wanted to highlight what they say is the inhumane conditions under which detainees live at the centre.

Medicins Sans Frontier has laid a formal complaint about the conditions at Lindela with the Offices of the Health Ombudsman and Health Standards Compliance.

Kayan Leung from Lawyers for Human Rights says we have forgotten who has made sacrifices for this country. “For this democracy. Have they not made sacrifices for our leaders? Have they not made sacrifices for our democracy? They were called here. Our economy was built on the backs of poor African labourers, and suddenly when South Africa decides we don’t want you anymore, we can continue violating your rights, we will arrest and deport you like dogs.”

South Africa is only harming itself and its economy by excluding refugees, migrants and asylum seekers from the work force. This according to Fulu Sinthumule from the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants, who was speaking at the picket.

He says the South African government excludes many skilled labourers through legislature and policy, and that when South Africa fails those who seek asylum inside its borders, it is also failing its own people.

“They have been victimised already by what is happening in their home countries. But when they come here they are facing the worst. If you have been inside Lindela and you live in townships, you will appreciate that living in townships is much better. The situation in Lindela, the health conditions in Lindela… We have skilled people in Lindela who should be utilising their skills do develop this country to be one of the developed countries.”