Nineteen undocumented Zimbabweans who had been arrested in South Africa survived being deported back to their country after a high court ruled, they could apply for asylum.
The migrants had been rounded up and detained at New Lock prison in Pretoria.
They were released Thursday to start the process of applying for asylum.
The 19 are Godknows Ndlovu, Munyaradzi Dzuke, Searchmore Kusvuta, Tapiwa Nyoni, Brian Dube, Pardon Sibanda, Melusi Dube, Phillip Masvora, Howard Moyo, Elvis Moyo, Siphiwo Ncube, Christine Ncube, Godwin Mujuri, Fikile Dube, Peter Tshuma, Kelvin Mpofu, Kezmore Mbendzi, Message Ncube and Xolani Ndlovu.
They were represented by lawyer, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, also chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum, who argued that the Zimbabweans had a right to apply for asylum and could not be detained further against their will.
In their application, the 19 cited the Minister of Police as the first respondent, the Minister of Home Affairs as the second respondent, the Director General of Public Prosecution Authority as the third respondent, the Chief Director: Asylum Seeker Management- DHA as the fourth respondent and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services as the fifth respondent.
In releasing them, a North Gauteng High Court order, said the arrest, deportation and detention and prosecution of the applicants under the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 was deferred.
“(The release of the 19 Zimbabweans is) Subject to the applicants approaching the Refugees reception office as contemplated in paragraph 4. Respondents are interdicted from further prosecuting and deporting the applicants unless until their statues under the Refugees Act 130 of 1998 has been lawfully and finally determined,” read the court order.
Accordingly, the applicants are to be forthwith released and the court order declared that in terms of Regulation 2 (2) of the Refugee regulations, the 19 Zimbabweans are entitled to remain lawfully in the Republic of South Africa for a period of 14 days in order to allow them to approach the refuges reception office.
“The second (the Minister of Home Affairs), fourth (Chief Director: Asylum Seeker Management- DHA) and fifth respondent (the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services) are directed upon submission by the applicants of the asylum seeker permit in accordance with Section 22 of the Refugees Act 130 of 1998 pending finalisation of the claims including their rights of appeal and review in terms of chapter 4 of the Refugees Act 130 of 1998 and Promotion of the Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000,” said the court order .
The high court also ordered the Minister of Police to pay the cost of the application.
Migrants in South Africa have raised concerns that authorities in that country continue to arrest and detain foreign nationals despite some having valid documents.
The crackdown of migrants comes after xenophobic attacks that occurred in Johannesburg and Pretoria in August where at least 12 people died, others sustained injuries while property belonging to foreigners was destroyed.