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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 06 Refugees, asylum seekers held arbitrarily Two years of arbitrary detention of 16 people
FI 078/19-4
Abgeschlossen am 11. März 2021
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14.01.2021: Suggested tweet

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On 17 January 2019, police and immigration officers arbitrarily arrested 16 refugees and asylum seekers at the Maratane refugee camp in Mozambique. Two years later, they remain arbitrarily detained without even knowing what the charges against them are. @FNyusi They should be immediately released
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Two years of arbitrary detention of 16 people

AI-Index: AFR 41/3511/2021

17 January marks two years that fifteen asylum seekers and refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and one refugee from Ethiopia, have been arbitrarily detained in Pemba, northeast Mozambique, in appalling conditions. They must be immediately and unconditionally released.


The 14 men and one woman from the DRC, and one male refugee from Ethiopia, were arbitrarily arrested by the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) and immigration officers on 17 January 2019 in Maratane Camp, in Nampula province, northern Mozambique. According to their testimonies, the police and immigration officers arrived at the Maratane Camp in the evening and beat, hand-cuffed and arrested the 16 people without a warrant. On 19 January 2019, the PRM transferred them to the Third Police Station in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province.

On 23 January 2019, the government of Mozambique deported seven men from this group, who were originally from the DRC. They were not notified of a deportation order, nor were they permitted to challenge their deportation. According to testimony from the seven men, the immigration officers forced them to board a flight to Kinshasa, DRC. When they arrived at the Kinshasa airport, immigration officers denied them entry and ordered their return to Mozambique.

In August 2019, the Cabo Delgado Provincial Director of the National Immigration Service (SENAMI) visited the 16 detainees, without notifying their lawyers, and tried to coerce them into signing voluntary repatriation forms, arguing they would not be safe in Maratane Camp.

On 31 October 2019, the Vice Minister of Interior, police officers, the Cabo Delgado Provincial Director of the National Immigration Service (SENAMI) and a representative of the National Institute of Refugees’ Support (INAR) visited the 16 detainees. According to the detainees’ testimonies, during the meeting, the authorities explained that the Minister of Interior had issued a decision prohibiting them from living in Mozambique and that they would not be allowed to enter Mozambique for 10 years after their departure. The 16 detainees also said that the authorities told them again to sign «voluntary repatriation» forms and threatened them with prolonged detention if they refused to do so.

In May 2020, at its 87th session, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) adopted an opinion on the case of the 16 refugees and asylum seekers arbitrarily detained, at that point for nearly a year and six months. The UNWGAD concluded that their arrest and detention lack legal basis and are arbitrary.

Everyone – including irregular migrants, regular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees – has the right to due process and judicial guarantees, to adequate detention conditions, including access to food, water and adequate health care, and to not be subjected to arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, collective expulsion or refoulement. The international legal principle of non-refoulement forbids states from transferring anyone to a place where they would be at real risk of serious human rights violations.

In April 2019, Cyclone Kenneth damaged vital infrastructure in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. The Third Police Station, where the 16 refugees and asylum seekers are being held, was flooded when the cyclone hit and was left in poor condition.

Since October 2017, armed groups have killed civilians in the Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique. The attacks started in Mocímboa da Praia district (northern Cabo Delgado), involving members of an armed group, calling itself known «Al-Shabaab».

The 16 refugees and asylum seekers have family living in the Maratane Refugee Camp who lack the financial means to travel to Pemba to visit them. In addition, due to the ongoing violent attacks in Cabo Delgado province, road travel to Pemba could be very dangerous. As a result, all the 16 individuals have not seen their family since their arrest in January 2019.

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