Operation Fiela hits PE: 90 illegal immigrants arrested

The two-day operation netted illegal immigrants, criminals, dagga and illegal tobacco products.

FILE: Police and the army raided the Madala hostel in Alexandra just before midnight on 22 April 2015. The move comes in a bid to quell xenophobic violence. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Eastern Cape police have arrested 90 illegal immigrants in a two-day operation in Port Elizabeth.

The raids form part of government's Operation Fiela which was launched several weeks back in the wake of xenophobic violence.

On Thursday police arrested 76 undocumented foreigners.

A further 14 people were taken into custody last night in the Port Elizabeth CBD.

The police's Sibongile Soci said, "Three suspects aged between 35 and 45 were arrested for hijacking a vehicle and being in possession of dagga. Illicit tobacco products were also seized."

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 said '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 said the people who were detained during the operation have been constantly denied the right to legal representation.

Meanwhile, authorities confiscated counterfeit goods worth over R1 million in the operation in the Mitchells Plain town centre on Thursday.

The operation was also carried out in Pretoria, Alexandra, Jeppestown, Bellville and Durban.

Various law enforcement agencies as well as the military took part in the raid s.


President Jacob Zuma says government will not tolerate illegal immigrants.

Responding to questions in the National Council of Provinces, Zuma made a distinction between immigrants who brought skills and started businesses and those here illegally.

While he said South Africa had a duty to protect refugees and asylum seekers, he also emphasised that immigrants must be properly documented.

"We wish to emphasise that while working to create a welcoming atmosphere for foreign nationals, government will also not tolerate illegal immigrants."

Zuma also told MPs ' Operation Fiela-Reclaim', launched last week in the wake of the recent wave of attacks on immigrants, was an anti-crime and clean-up operation.

"The operation is aimed at ensuring that no area in the country remains in the control of crime syndicates and drug dealers."

But the operation, which saw the raid of the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg and attempted deportation of people arrested in the raid, has come under sharp criticism from NGOs, which say government is being xenophobic.

Concerns that the police and military operation is being used to arrest and deport immigrants, without giving them time to consult lawyers have been dismissed by Cabinet saying ' Operation Fiela-Reclaim' is not targeted at foreigners.

Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams condemned legal organisation Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) for its court application halting the deportation of people arrested in the raids.

"Let's say, for argument's sake, there has been violation of human rights, but you can't take a view as an organisation to say we will go to court only for the foreign nationals. South Africans whose rights have been violated, we don't care about them. I think it is a very wrong approach by that NGO."