Refugees camp in Cape Town tourist hotspot: here's a recap of the events

“We don’t want to be here any more, we are scared of living in South Africa and we want to leave,” said Matityahu Mbu, a refugee living on the steps of the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town’s popular Greenmarket Square.

The group of about 600 refugees has been living inside and outside the church since October 31 2019, after being forcibly removed by police from outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) offices in the CBD.

“It’s hard living here, we are not wanted here by the traders as they say we are affecting their income. We understand their complaints, but what can we do?” said Mbu.

The refugees began their protest after xenophobic violence broke out at the end of August last year.

Since then, two of the refugee groups' leaders have been arrested by police after charges of assault and robbery were brought against them by their own followers. 

Now the situation is in court, after an urgent interdict brought by the city of Cape Town on December 9 2019. The city wants the Cape high court to order the refugees to stop disregarding health and safety bylaws, and to stop harassing law-enforcement officials.

Judge Kate Savage postponed the matter to January 22 2020 to give the city, the department of home affairs and the police an opportunity to meet and find a solution.

The city said it would soon begin “enforcement operations” against the group of refugees camping outside the church.

This is according to JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security. It comes after two meetings this week with representatives of the refugees, SAPS, home affairs and the UNHCR.

“We don’t want to be reintegrated into South Africa as we fear for our lives. We want to leave South Africa to find a safer area for us and our children,” said Mbu.


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