City to begin 'enforcement operations' against Greenmarket Square refugees

The City of Cape Town will soon begin “enforcement operations” against refugees camping at the Central Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square.
The City of Cape Town will soon begin “enforcement operations” against refugees camping at the Central Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square.
Image: GroundUp/Lucas Nowicki

The City of Cape Town says it will soon begin “enforcement operations” against the group of refugees camping outside the Central Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square.

This is according to JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security. It comes after two meetings this week with representatives from the refugees, Saps, home affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The refugees have been protesting for months — previously outside the UNHCR offices on St Georges Mall — before they were forcefully removed in a chaotic scene on 30 October.

They have been demanding to be resettled in another country. Since then, most of the families have been living inside or outside the church.

The meeting on Wednesday was to address the demands put forward by the refugees, which included the provision of a safe temporary shelter, as well as for the UNHCR and home affairs to process their documents.

After the closed meeting at Cape Town Central station, GroundUp spoke to Aline Bukuru, founder of Women and Children at Concern (WCC) and leader of the refugee group that protested in Pretoria.

Bukuru said she was “hopeful” that the city would meet their demand for a temporary shelter, adding that they “were working together”.

But Smith painted a different picture, accusing leaders of the refugee group of spreading misinformation. He said providing a temporary shelter was “not on the cards” because the city fears that it would become permanent.

Smith said the city was planning to make space available where the families could be interviewed and screened individually by home affairs and the UNHCR, but “not for any kind of bulk relocation” to other countries.

Smith said having refugees living outside the church in Greenmarket Square was “simply unsustainable” and it was up to Saps and metro police to intervene.

The UNHCR and home affairs offices could not be reached by the time of publication.

This article was first published by GroundUp.


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