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Refugee Advocates Say South Africa Expediting Deportations Of Zimbabweans

Advocates for the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa said many of them could face deportation, charging that authorities have begun to deport refugees seeking renewal of their residency permits from the Department of Home Affairs.

Sources said that since last week, refugees seeking renewals have found themselves being interviewed, denied renewal and sent to the Lindela holding facility for eventual deportation back to Zimbabwe without being given 14 days in which to appeal under the law.

South African Home Affairs Siobhan McCarthy told VOA that authorities were not deporting refugees, which would be contrary to international law, but were merely urging victims of the May wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa to renew exemption certificates.

But sources among Zimbabwean expatriates and refugee-rights groups in South Africa said about 30 Zimbabweans have been deported under the circumstances described.

Refugee Life Ministries Coordinator Emmanuel Nyakarashi told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the procedure violates refugee rights.

Elsewhere, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva said tens of thousands of internally displaced Zimbabweans face a desperate humanitarian situation.

In a report released Thursday, the center said the internally displaced are more vulnerable to the economic crisis and that their plight has been exacerbated by the government's ban on the distribution of food and other assistance by non-governmental organizations.

The group also took the United Nations in Zimbabwe to task for being “overly cautious” in its dealings with the government, and failing to develop a systematic response to the crisis.

Internal Displacement Monitoring Center Head Kate Halff said one key point in the report is that the dearth information on displaced people in Zimbabwe complicates aid efforts

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...