Mozambican authorities must immediately and unconditionally release 15 Congolese refugees and asylum seekers and one Ethiopian refugee who have been in detention for nearly six months without any criminal charges filed against them, Amnesty International said today to mark World Refugee Day.
It is outrageous that these refugees and asylum seekers remain in detention while being deliberately kept in the dark as to why they have been arrestedDeprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Regional Director for Southern Africa
The group was arbitrarily arrested on 17 January 2019, after being handcuffed and allegedly beaten by police and immigration officers in Maratane refugee camp in Mozambique’s northeastern Nampula province. Two days later, they were transferred to the police station in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province. Until now, they have not been informed of the reasons for their continued detention.
“It is outrageous that these refugees and asylum seekers remain in detention while being deliberately kept in the dark as to why they have been arrested. There is no excuse for this kind of treatment,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“The Mozambican government must end the arbitrary detentions by immediately releasing these individuals or charging them with internationally recognizable offences.”
Following their arrest, Mozambican authorities attempted to deport seven of the refugees and asylum seekers back to the Democratic Republic of Congo on 23 January. However, they were turned back at Kinshasa International Airport after being denied entry by Congolese immigration officials.
According to the deported men, immigration officials in Kinshasa claimed that the emergency travel documents issued in their names by Mozambican officials did not prove their Congolese citizenship.
Mozambican authorities must stop treating refugees and asylum seekers like criminals. Their unlawful detention undermines the international architecture built to protect refugees and asylum seekersDeprose Muchena
The immigration officials at Kinshasa International Airport also claimed that the men could not return to their homes in Kivu region due to increasing political instability and insecurity ahead of new President Félix Tshisekedi’s inauguration on 24 January. Travelling back to Mozambique, the men were then held for three days while in transit at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, waiting to board a flight to Pemba, Cabo Delgado province.
On 26 January, the men arrived in the northern Mozambican city of Pemba and were transferred back to the Third Police Station. The Pemba Provincial Court is yet to rule on a request for the provisional release of the 16 refugees and asylum seekers.
“Mozambican authorities must stop treating refugees and asylum seekers like criminals. Their unlawful detention undermines the international architecture built to protect refugees and asylum seekers,” said Deprose Muchena.
The 16 refugees and asylum seekers are currently detained at the Third Police Station in Pemba city. According to the detainees, they have not been receiving adequate food or necessary medical attention, and at one point, they were denied food for 25 days in a row and they had to pay people to buy them bread.