The refugees and asylum seekers living in and around the Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square have until Friday to take up an offer to register for any assistance they may need, the City of Cape Town said on Tuesday.
“The seven-day verification process will terminate on Friday, February 28, 2020,” said Richard Bosman, the City’s executive director for safety and security.
“As indicated before, the City is committed to resolving the matter as speedily as possible in line with the court order, and we ask that the public will allow the Department of Home Affairs and City to give effect to the order,” he added.
Friday’s calculation is based on the date the court order was read out to the group of about 600 people by the Sherriff of the Court.
Reading out the order would have informed them that the City has been granted the right to enforce its by-laws in the makeshift tent city that has sprung up around the church since the asylum seekers and refugees were evicted from the nearby Waldorf Arcade.
They had been living in the arcade to get the attention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the hopes of being relocated to another country amid fears of violence directed at foreigners. They were forcibly removed by the police and took up an offer of shelter at the Central Methodist Mission.
Friday’s deadline is not an extension.
The later deadline came to light in follow-up questions submitted by News24 regarding what action the City planned to take on Wednesday, the calculation of the seven days given for the verification process from the day after the court order was issued.
Comment was not immediately available from the Department of Home Affairs, which is carrying out the actual verification process in line with Acting Judge Daniel Thulare’s order.
He ordered the City to provide a venue for the department to be made available to any of the refugees or asylum seekers who want to register any special needs and that refugee officers be available to help.
The City has provided transport to and from the venue which is in Salt River.
On February 17, it was granted an interim order to enforce its by-laws outside the church after claiming its officials were being threatened and prevented from doing so by the large group.
The by-laws place prohibitions on sleeping, cooking and bathing on the pavement as well as blocking public spaces.
Judge Thulare said the sit-in had created a slum city around the church and the leaders themselves had created a “shadow opposition” to the laws of South Africa when they resisted offers of help or pleas to obey the by-laws.
The traders on Greenmarket Square and businesses near the church have complained that since the church took the refugees in, their revenue has plunged, and visitors sometimes do not feel safe.
Many of the traders at the market are also refugees and asylum seekers.
The church itself is encouraging people to think about whether carrying on living at the church is sustainable.