Thu Oct 20 21:43:21 SAST 2016

Outrage at closure of refugee camp

By unknown | Mar 06, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

Humanitarian medical group Doctors Without Borders has lambasted the government for closing down a refugee camp in Musina, Limpopo.

The Department of Home Affairs announced on Tuesday that it was shutting down the "showground", a large open field where more than 4000 Zimbabweans would queue to apply for asylum and seek refuge each night.

The organisation of doctors said it was shocked by the closure of the camp, which opened in November last year to receive hordes of Zimbabweans seeking refuge from both cholera and the economic and political crises gripping their country.

"This ill-conceived decision by South African authorities places Zimbabweans seeking refuge at an incredible risk, especially those with serious illnesses such as TB and HIV-Aids," said Rachel Cohen, the organisation's head of mission in South Africa.

"There will be negative consequences, as no allowances have been made to ensure the refugees access to shelter, food or medical assistance."

Two weeks ago, the doctors released a report on the ongoing humanitarian and medical crisis in Zimbabwe. It also called on the government to halt deportations and to provide adequate humanitarian assistance for those in the country.

On Tuesday, the authorities started dividing Zimbabweans seeking refugee status at the showground into different groups according to their legal status, gender and age.

Women with children, pregnant women and unaccompanied minors were removed from a special location that had been established for them at the showground. Home Affairs also announced that it would close its office today.

Sara Hjalmarsson, the doctor's field coordinator in Musina, said: "People without asylum-seeking papers were separated into groups, their names were recorded and families were split up in this process.

"The Department of Home Affairs ordered all temporary shelters to be taken down and burnt. There is no information on how newly arrived Zimbabweans will be able to apply for asylum."

By late yesterday it was not clear what would happen to those whose applications would not have been processed by today.

The closure of the Limpopo refugee camp follows days after the Klerksoord refugee camp in Akasia, north of Pretoria, was shut down.


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