Refugees take on police over ‘illegal’ detention

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BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
SIX refugees at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Manicaland province have given notice to sue police and the Department of Immigration for loss of property and unlawful detention following their arrest in August last year.

The migrants, Agnes Uwizeya, Christine Kwizagira, Mayange Abubakari, Miriam Ajumungu, Janine Ninonyegre and Orida Zewenga, from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, claimed they were illegally detained following protests over the attempted deportation of some refugees at the camp on August 6, 2021.

They claimed that they were not involved in the protests but were arrested and taken to Harare Remand Prison and Chikurubi Female Prison without being given an opportunity to defend themselves.

The refugees, through their lawyer Tinashe Chinopfukutwa, have written to Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe giving notice to sue Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and chief immigration officer Respect Gono for unlawful detention and loss of property.

To date, they have not been charged with any offence.

“The conduct of the police officers, immigration officers and prison officers in question constituted an arbitrary and unjustifiable deprivation of our clients’ liberty declared by the High Court. Furthermore, in terms of section 50(9) of the Constitution, our clients are entitled to seek compensation arising from their unlawful and arbitrary detention,” the lawyer argued.

Chinopfukutwa said his clients, who lost property at Tongogara Refugee Camp following their lengthy detention, were demanding compensation.

“Accordingly, please be advised of our client’s intention to sue for damages in terms of the State Liabilities Act as read with section 70 of the Police Act [Chapter 11:10]. The quantum of the damages is to be computed and furnished to you in due course in the summons commencing action,” the letter read.

Responding to the letter, a police acting legal services director only identified as G Mandivenga said: “Investigations into the allegations raised therein are being instituted. We will communicate our attitude towards your letter shortly.”

Kazembe is yet to respond to the matter.

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