Refugees in Constitutional Court Battle for Access to Private Security Industry

Cape Times (South Africa), August 3, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Refugees in Constitutional Court Battle for Access to Private Security Industry


BYLINE: Estelle Ellis

In the first case of its kind in the world, refugees from all over Africa have approached the Constitutional Court to help them gain access to the private security industry.

But the matter before the court is about more than just refugees who want to be security guards.

"To my knowledge, before the court was approached, no other court, either in South Africa or any other jurisdiction in the world, have explicitly recognised refugee status as a prohibited ground of discrimination," Lawyers for Human Rights attorney Fritz Gaerdes said in papers before court.

In the papers, Gaerdes said the refugees believe that the constitution would allow them to apply to be registered as security providers in a similar way that South African citizens and those who have permanent residence here do.

But Seth Mogapi, the chief executive of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), said that they believed it would be better for refugees to be treated as the exception rather than the rule, adding that PSIRA believed that doing otherwise would compromise control over the security industry.

But lawyers for the refugees said the stereotyping of refugees as security risks was offensive and unjustifiable.

Mogapi said there were many logistical problems with checking the criminal records and possible military or other state security involvement of refugee applicants.

Gaerdes said that before the new law came into effect in February 2002, refugees were registered and worked as security officers. Since then, he had received many complaints that applications by refugees to be registered as security providers were turned down.

This has resulted in an application by 12 refugees and the Union of Refugee Women in the Pretoria High Court to have discrimination against them on the grounds of their refugee status declared unconstitutional.

It was argued on their behalf that the law had violated their rights to dignity. The Union of Refugee Women was litigating in the public interest.

The refugees are Kinuguba Magambo, Aimable Do Grio Bandandaza, Richard Rugonda, Solange Mukamana, Jean-Marie Bipamba Mikado, Joseph Mubambek, Bosumbe Elanga, Pompidou Webber, Pelagie Nyiranzarora, Tshala Claudine Mbaya, Chitera Matembela and Deudonne Masaka Nizigiyimana.

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