renewed fears over new home

HOME: The new site for immigrants, next to Jeppe Hostel in Johannesburg. Pic. Mohau Mofokeng. © Sowetan.
HOME: The new site for immigrants, next to Jeppe Hostel in Johannesburg. Pic. Mohau Mofokeng. © Sowetan.

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

While plans to move displaced foreigners in Gauteng unfolded yesterday, immigrants expressed deep fears for their safety.

Foreign nationals at Jeppe police station in Johannesburg yesterday said they did not know where they were being taken to and how secure the shelter would be.

"Is our safety guaranteed in the shelter?" asked Omarion Ramadhani from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The 31-year-old said he was grateful that there were plans to move them from the station.

"Living conditions here are terrible," he said. "There is no food or medicine. We do not know how we are going to survive. I just hope things will be better where they are taking us."

Mozambican national Paul Ndlovu, 25, said: "I do not want to leave the police station. I don't know where I'm being taken. What if we are attacked again? Will the police protect us at the shelters?"

Foreign nationals who were accommodated at the police station will be moved to the old shunting station in Benrose, Johannesburg.

The place is in the veld sandwiched between the George Goch and Jeppe hostels.

The site has about 190 tents. Every tent is partitioned into two and each side will accommodate five people.

There are 70 mobile toilets and 10 showers. About 20 security guards will be deployed at the site. Electricity will be installed.

"This is the beginning of an uncontrolled informal settlement," DA leader Jack Bloom said. "It needs to be well managed and strictly has to be temporary.

"The situation was not well handled. There are far better places."

He said the site was a disturbing choice and attacks could erupt again.

"Moving the foreigners to the site is just asking for trouble. Why place them near hostels?" he asked.

A woman who asked to remain anonymous at the site said: "This place is horrible. It is also not safe for children."

At the police station the media was barred from talking to the foreigners.

Jeppe police spokesman Richard Munyai said: "The foreigners complained to us that the media was invading their privacy.

"So we have no choice but to stop the media from talking to them."

Police spokesman Director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said: "The media was only stopped from talking to the foreigners because Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Susan Shabangu wanted to talk to them.

"We only wanted order. The media cannot simply go in and out of the station and disturb the police in their work."