CAPE TOWN – The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) has urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the South African government, civil society organisations, and refugee representative organisations to find an urgent, amicable solution to the refugee "crisis" in Cape Town and Pretoria.
The foundation said this call came after many refugees staged a sit-in outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices at Waldorf Arcade in Cape Town and in Brooklyn, Pretoria.
The UNHRC said the organisation had received concerns of personal safety, access to documentation, challenges accessing services, as well as a lack of job opportunities from the refugees who had been camping outside of its offices for almost three weeks.
The statement further indicated that there had also been demands for resettlements, which were only available for a limited number of vulnerable refugees. The UNCHR said they had been engaging with the refugees and asylum seekers since the onset of the protests, encouraging them to participate in constructive dialogue to address their grievances and find a peaceful resolution to the situation.
Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton called on the UNHRC to lead in engaging dialogue with the South African government and other role players in finding an amicable solution as a matter of urgency.
“South Africa has always been seen as a beacon of human rights and what has transpired in the past few days is far short of this. The manner in which the SAPS [South African Police Service] responded to this situation needs to be reviewed. Scenes of children being forcefully removed from their mothers is not one that we thought would be seen in South Africa today.”
For refugees to see the need to want to be repatriated from a country in which they sought refuge was indicative of the magnitude of work that needed to be done to build an inclusive human rights culture for all who live in South Africa, he said.