Thu Oct 20 23:26:23 SAST 2016

Refugees' plea to UN

By Francis Hweshe | Apr 09, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

A GROUP of refugees facing eviction from a place of safety in Cape Town has called for United Nations intervention.

The City of Cape Town has been granted an eviction order by the high court and this would be carried out any time by the sheriff.

The 187 refugees, some with children, have lived at the Blue Waters Camp outside Cape Town for more than two years. The group has refused reintegration incentives and instead had said if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees does not protect them, they would rather live on the city's streets.

They have refused to go back to the local communities they fled from during the May 2008 xenophobic attacks, claiming they feared for their lives.

The refugees, some from Burundi, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among the estimated 20000 foreigners in the Western Cape.

"We still have the fear we had two years ago. Our protection should be the UNHCR because we are not citizens of this country.

"The authorities say we should go back to the communities. We are not here for land or houses. We want resettlement. I did not accept the reintegration package because I don't feel safe," Burundian Omario Khalfam said.

He said he had tried to return to the townships to look for a place to stay but had been chased away. "They call me bongoman (sells drugs) and a kwerekwere who took their jobs," claimed Khalfam.

Congolese mother of six Vanel Sewika, the youngest having been born in the camp last year, said: "I'm worried about my kids."

She said one of her daughters had tried to go to school but was repeatedly called a kwerekwere by some of her school mates.

"May 23 2008 was like death for me. I want the UN to protect me. I have been in this camp for two years. I have never gone out to the communities because it is not safe," Sewika said.

She cited the war in the Eastern DRC as the reason for her coming to South Africa. She said she would have preferred to go back to her homeland if there was peace.

"We are confused. We don't know what to do. No one is listening to us, even the UN. They (authorities) have been forcing us to accept this (reintegration packages) for the past two years," Ibrahim Salim said.

He said he had two children aged three months and four years in the camp.

Patrick Kawuma Male, UNHCR head of field office in Cape Town, was in the camp on Tuesday afternoon trying to convince the refugees to accept reintegration.

Male said his organisation was not party to the eviction and that resettlement or repatriation would only take place outside the refugee camp.

The City of Cape Town said that eviction was the last resort and that it has not used "force or coercion" but "persuasion and patience" in urging the refugees to move out.

In granting the eviction order, the high court ordered the city authorities to provide life-skills training programmes to the 340 refugees to the tune of R300000.

The city was also ordered to provide trauma counseling to the refugees to the value of R100000.

Last Friday, it relocated refugees who agreed to move, to the Delft Temporary Relocation Area.

Those who are refusing to move have been offered R1000 per head to find accommodation outside the site.

In a separate matter, more than 1000 Zimbabwean farm workers, displaced in the Du Doorns outside Cape Town late last year, are still accommodated in tents there.

Male said he had visited the site, and the workers had indicated that they wanted to reintegrate. He said the UNHCR would not offer them reintegration packages because it faced a financial crisis.


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