Urgent Action Update: Refugees and Asylum Seekers Must Be Released (Mozambique: UA 78.19)

June 25, 2020

Fifteen people from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and one person from Ethiopia have been arbitrarily detained in Pemba, northeast Mozambique, for more than a year and six months in appalling conditions. Their prolonged arbitrary detention in the context of COVID-19 pandemic puts them at heightened health risk.



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Minister Helena Kida
Minister of Justice
Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Carlos Dos Santos
Embassy of the Republic of Mozambique
1525 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036
Phone: 202 293 7146 I Fax: 202 835 0245
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Minister Helena Kida,

I am writing to you concerning the case of 16 people (11 refugees and five asylum seekers, 14 men and one woman from the DRC and one man from Ethiopia), who are currently detained at the Third Police Station in Pemba city, Cabo Delgado province. These people have been detained since their arrest on 17 January 2019 without an arrest warrant. They have not been informed of the reasons for their arrest nor of any charges against them.

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 for nearly a year and six months. The UNWGAD concluded that their arrest and detention lack legal basis and are arbitrary.

The 16 detainees have been held in inhumane conditions. According to the detainees, their cell does not have a toilet, forcing them to dig several holes in the police station’s patio to use as a toilet. They drink yellow water from the cell’s sink, and they have not been provided with adequate food. They don’t have mattresses and have to sleep on a sheet of paper on the floor. Their prolonged arbitrary detention in the current context of the global COVID-19 pandemic represents an additional and grave risk to the right to health of the 16 refugees and asylum seekers. The prison authorities have not implemented any measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at the Third Police Station in Pemba.

On 12 March 2019, their lawyers filed a provisional release application, but the Pemba Provincial Court has yet to rule on the request. I urge you to ensure the urgent and immediate release of the 16 refugees and asylum seekers and allow them to return safely to the Maratane Camp in Nampula province, and provide them with adequate compensation and reparation; and ensure that no one is coerced into “requesting” repatriation or deported to their countries of origin or to any other country in which they would be at real risk of serious human rights violations, in line with Mozambique’s international human rights obligations.

Yours sincerely,