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Group picketing in JHB over ‘state xenophobia’

They are calling for the illegal immigrants arrested during this morning’s raid to be released.

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

JOHANNESBURG - A small crowd is picketing outside the Johannesburg Central Police Station against what they are calling 'state xenophobia' after cops arrested more than 400 people, mostly illegal immigrants, earlier today.

The police, backed by the army, raided several buildings including the Central Methodist Church, in the early hours of the morning.

This is the third joint raid between the police and the army following the recent spate of xenophobic attacks which left seven people dead.

SA army and police raided buildings around Johannesburg CBD on 8 May 2015, as part of their operation to search for illegal goods, weapons and drugs. Picture: Nyasha Mharakurwa ‏@sirnyasha.

Protesters are holding placards that say the police and the army are part of the problem.

They are calling for the illegal immigrants currently in police custody to be released saying it is not their presence that's causing xenophobia.

Human rights lawyers have meet with the police.

The Coalition of Movements Against Xenophobia's Steven Faulkner says government should spend more time meeting with organisations to find solutions.

"We hope that our political leadership steps up but also to recount from the view that it is the presence of illegal immigrants which is the cause of xenophobia, that is just nonsense."

Concerns have also been raised over the well-being of hundreds of illegal immigrants arrested in the early morning raid.

Faulkner said this was the worst possible nightmare for the displaced foreigners.

"Many of them don't move in the night time around the streets of our city. Many of them have been subjected to physical attacks and they're very afraid. And now at 2am in the morning their fears have all been realised."

He says money for police resources should rather be directed towards economic development.

Meanwhile, Gauteng police say they will continue with crime prevention operations in the province to stop criminals.

On person has described their shock after officials stormed the building.

"They first said those who don't have permits must go… The police just came in harassing people saying 'Wake up! Wake up!' and if you were just waking up, they just hit you."

The police's Katlego Mogale says the operations form part of a nationwide crime prevention initiative.

"This crime prevention operation has been ongoing, they have started with the year and they will still continue throughout the year."

BODY FOUND DURING RAID

At the same time, a body of a man was been found in a building which was raided during an anti-crime blitz this morning.

Police have now wrapped up their stop and search operation in the city centre leaving many people who were living in the Methodist Church displaced.

The operation is expected to continue throughout various hotspots, which have been identified as crime-ridden.

Mogale says they believe the body might have been dumped there.

"A body of a man, aged between 35 and 45, was found during the operation this morning. At this stage it is unknown as to what transpired. Police suspect that his body might have been dumped."

After the deployment of the army following a flare up of xenophobic violence across South Africa, the police have been raiding various hotspots.

Similar crime prevention operations have been done in other parts of the country.

These include hostels in Jeppestown and Alexandra, the CBDs of various provinces, and areas like Marikana.

WATCH: Breaking down doors: Army & police raid Bellville, Cape Town

Hundreds of illegal immigrants have been arrested in these operations, while drugs and weapons have also been seized.

WATCH: Kicking down doors: EWN takes you inside the Jeppestown hostel raid