UN body helping to end REFUGEE crisis

Katlego Moeng

Katlego Moeng

After months of dragging its feet, the government has finally roped in the UN High Commission for Refugees to help sort out the refugee headache at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg.

And to show its commitment, the UNHCR has donated R1million to the government to support the relocation of thousands of destitute Zimbabweans.

Since the weekend, the UNHCR, and local government and Department of Home Affairs officials have been hard at work preparing for the move.

On Saturday night, the UNHCR sealed off the church and handed out 2533 tokens to those who were in the church. This exercise, known as fixing, was to determine the number of people in the church that evening.

This is the number that Home Affairs and local government officials will use to identify which people to relocate.

On Monday, Home Affairs started profiling the vulnerable groups - women with children, unaccompanied minors, the sickly and elderly - who will get priority when the asylum seekers are moved to five buildings around Gauteng.

Spokesperson for the commission Pumla Rulashe was cagey when asked if the UNHCR had finally been invited to help out.

"The relocation is a government-led initiative and the UNHCR is supporting government and the church in terms of our mandate," Rulashe said.

"This is a collective effort. We helped with the fixing process on Saturday and we are here to ensure that things happen properly," she said.