SALC STATEMENT: Mozambique detains three asylum seekers unlawfully for more than three months

> Refugee and Migrant Rights, Human Rights > Mozambique, Southern Africa
Salc : Staff Writer

SALC is concerned about the prolonged unlawful detention of three asylum seekers in Chimoio, the capital city of Manica province in central Mozambique. Despite alerting the authorities including the Instituto Nacional de Apoio ao Refugiado (INAR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) about this situation, the asylum seekers remain in detention without charges. INAR is the Mozambique state body tasked with responsibility to provide assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. These asylum seekers have been detained for more than four months and arrived in Mozambique fleeing unrest and persecution in their country of origin.

Despite appeals by SALC and UNHCR, the Mozambican authorities have not taken any steps to move the asylum seekers from police cells where they are being held to Maratane, the country’s main refugee camp located in Nampula. The authorities allege that they lack funds required to cover expenses linked to transportation of these asylum seekers. However, SALC is aware that UNHCR supports the government with funds to cover such costs. All three asylum seekers are in need of medical attention but no steps have been taken by the Mozambican authorities to assist in this regard.

According to SALC’s Executive Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, “The right to claim asylum is an internationally protected right which Mozambique is not respecting”. Mozambique is a State party to the AU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and it acceded to the UN Refugee Convention in 1983. The Minister of the Interior shall be competent to rule upon a petition for asylum after consulting the Advisory Committee for Refugees. According to Article 7 of the Mozambican Refugees Act, any person interested in acquiring refugee status may petition the competent authority in writing or orally. On account of the ongoing detention, these asylum seekers have been unable to lodge any petitions for refugee status. Ramjathan-Keogh added, “They are seemingly detained for unlawful entry into the country. Despite Article 11 of the Refugee Act stating that any criminal or administrative proceedings directly connected with illegal entry shall be suspended immediately upon the submission of the petition.”

In order to ensure the safety of the asylum seekers, we have elected not to disclose their names or nationalities in this statement. We call the government of Mozambique to:

  1. Affirm the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Mozambique;
  2. Comply with their obligations under the UN Refugee Convention as well as the AU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa;
  3. Release the three asylum seekers detained unlawfully in Chimoio and provide the necessary support to ensure their safe transfer to Maratane Refugee Camp.