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Gigaba defends 'Operation Fiela'

He says 'Operation Fiela' is about the state re-organising life in areas that are ridden with crime.

FILE: A group of people picketing outside the Johannesburg Central Police Station on 8 May 2015. Picture: Emily Corke/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has told Eyewitness News 'Operation Fiela' is about the state re-organising life in areas that are ridden with crime and police have acted on information around arms caches and drug dens.

The illegal immigrants were arrested during raids by the police service, South African National Defence Force and officials from the Department Home Affairs in the Johannesburg CBD.

The raids also included the Central Methodist Church and have come under sharp criticism from non-government organisation Right2Know, which has described the raids as state 'co-ordinated xenophobia'.

The raids form part 'Operation Fiela' which government says is aimed at ridding the country of illegal guns, drugs and prostitution rings.

The High Court in Johannesburg has issued an order that the deportation of foreign nationals be halted for two weeks to allow Lawyers for Human Rights enough time to consult with those arrested.

The rights group says there are concerns that many people were assaulted or robbed during the raids while some of those behind bars could be legitimate asylum seekers.

Gigaba says 'Operation Fiela' will also target hijacked buildings.

"We're taking back public buildings that have been hijacked, either by foreign nationals or by South Africans, to the government so that we can use those buildings for proper purposes."

GOVT UNDER FIRE FOR OPERATION FIELA

Meanwhile, the government has come under fire for the operation with some saying it compares foreigners to 'rubbish'.

The People's Coalition Against Xenophobia's Stephen Faulkner says 'Operation Fiela' is a Sesotho name which means 'to sweep' and this doesn't reflect on what government claims it's doing to tackle the problem.

Lawyers for Human Rights' Wayne Ncube, at the same times, says the people who were detained during the operation have been constantly denied the right to legal representation.

So far, more than 700 people have been arrested during various raids, and this has drawn criticism from a number of NGOs.

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