On World Refugee Day (20 June), rights groups called on Mozambican authorities to release a group of 16 African refugees and asylum seekers detained in the country since 2019 and who are held in conditions in which their health is not safeguarded. The group, which includes 15 Congolese people and one Ethiopian man, were arrested (and allegedly beaten) by police and immigration officers in Maratane Refugee Camp in the north-east of the country and have since been arbitrarily detained in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province. According to Amnesty International, the group have been held in inhuman conditions with no access to clean drinking water and no toilet in their cell, and no measures have been implemented in the prison to prevent the spread of Covid-19. They have not been provided with beds and instead are reported to be sleeping on sheets of paper on the floor. In June 2019, it was also reported that the group had been denied food and medical attention, and in April 2019 the prison in which they are held was reported to have been flooded and damaged by Cyclone Kenneth.
Amnesty said in a 20 June statement, “The Mozambican government must immediately and unconditionally end the arbitrary detention of these refugees and release them without any delay or charge them with internationally recognizable offences if they have committed any crime.” In January 2019, Mozambican authorities had attempted to deport seven of the asylum seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese immigration authorities denied them entry.
In a previous case in 2018 involving the six-month detention of three asylum seekers, a High Court ordered their release, affirming the rights of asylum seekers within the country. According to the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, despite Article 11 of the country’s Refugee Act stating that any criminal or administrative proceedings directly connected with illegal entry shall be suspended immediately upon the submission of the petition, asylum seekers have continued to be arrested and detained for illegal entry.
- Amnesty International, “Mozambique: Failure to Release African Asylum Seekers and Refugees Reveals Disturbing Flaws in Justice System,” 20 June 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/06/mozambique-failure-to-release-african-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-reveals-disturbing-flaws-in-justice-system/
- A. Domingos, “Refugees Wallow in Mozambique Jail Months Without Charge,” Citizenship Rights in Africa Initiative, 21 June 2019, http://citizenshiprightsafrica.org/refugees-wallow-in-mozambique-jail-months-without-charge/
- Amnesty International, “Urgent Action: Refugees, Asylum Seekers Held Without Charge,” 16 August 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AFR4108802019ENGLISH.pdf
- Southern Africa Litigation Centre, “Mozambique Court Orders Release of Detained Asylum Seekers,” 4 October 2018, https://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/2018/10/04/mozambique-court-orders-release-of-detained-asylum-seekers/