Refugees refuse to return to ‘unsafe’ communities in Cape Town

Cape Town – The refugees holed up at the Central Methodist Mission church in Cape Town’s Greenmarket Square have rejected plans by the City and the Department of Home Affairs to reintegrate them to the communities they fled last year.

A spokesperson for the refugees, Aline Bukuru, said: “We can only pray that God will change the hearts of the leaders and people of this country.

“Before the reintegration talk, the authorities had said they would find us temporary shelter while they conducted an exercise to enumerate and document those of us who require paperwork to assist them to claim asylum or refugee status while verifying the bona fides of those with correct documentation.

“They had agreed to this at a meeting we held two weeks ago at the police station we haven’t heard a thing from them,” said Bukuru.

Asked if there was any way the refugees could be convinced to reintegrate, he said: “After four months it will be very difficult. It’s not as if any of these refugees here owned a property in the townships that they can just return to.

“None of them has kept up rent of the places they were living in and they have been replaced by other tenants. Anyway, even if we were to return to the communities we fled, nobody can guarantee that we will be safe from the same attacks that drove us away.”

Bukuru said even moving to different towns in South Africa was no guarantee of safety.

Mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, said: “The City of Cape Town has been actively engaging in discussions to implement an operational plan to support the Department of Home Affairs in conducting its verification process which will lead to reintegration.

“The plan is awaiting sign off from the SAPS and cannot proceed until they commit. The delay in response from SAPS is being addressed by Premier Alan Winde and mayor Dan Plato,” he said.

Smith said: “The City has had no option but to place interim safety measures at Greenmarket Square to alleviate the anxiety expressed by the informal traders, businesses and residents in the area.”

Director of community organisation Xaveri SA, Martin Mande said: “From the beginning of the protest, we have been advising the protesters to return to their respective communities.

“We’ve even requested those who claim they fear doing so to consider alternative communities where they would feel safe we support reintegration.”

Xaveri SA advocates and supports the social integration of refugees in South Africa and works closely with the Refugee Alliance for Justice.

The refugees are due back in court on Wednesday for the interdict by the City.


Cape Argus

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