'send us back home'

Sipho Masombuka

Sipho Masombuka

The resources used to sustain refugee camps scattered around the country after the spate of xenophobic attacks could be used to ease poverty in South Africa.

This was said by Somali refugees accommodated at one of two camps in Pretoria North.

The Somali refugees told Sowetan that the camps were a financial burden on the South African government and the only way to solve the problem was for the government to repatriate refugees to their home countries.

"Nobody wants to stay in these (refugee) camps for ever and the proposed reintegration into the communities that drove us out kicking and screaming is not welcomed either," A Somali refugee said.

"We are also tired of being portrayed as charity cases. When charity organisations come here to give us aid they also bring journalists to make a name for themselves. They are using our misfortune for publicity.

"We are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect."

Tshwane Metro police spokesman William Baloyi said the camp housing Somalis had become problematic and a security concern.

Baloyi said many volunteers and charity organisations have withdrawn from the camp for safety reasons.

On Saturday police used rubber bullets to disperse a group of Somali refugees who allegedly stoned passing vehicles on the Rosslyn road.

This was after police had to use force to rescue a security guard allegedly kidnapped by Somali refugees.

Late last month Somali, Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in the same camp boycotted food supplies from the South African government because it had failed to protect them and their property since their arrival in the country more than seven years ago.

Early this month the head of the Somali Association of South Africa, Abdul Hassam, apologised for the "ungrateful statements and actions" of his countrymen.

Hassam also appealed to the state to provide start-up packages to enable Somali businessmen to restore their businesses destroyed during the xenophobic attacks.