News24 Wire
Wire Service
3 minute read
31 Oct 2019
12:19 pm

12 foreign nationals still unaccounted after being removed from Cape Town refugee sit-in protest

News24 Wire

About 100 people were arrested after they failed to heed a call to disperse, according to police.

A woman holds on to her baby as South African Police officers forcefully remove refugees from various countries who were camping outside the Cape Town offices of the United Nations Council for refugees, In Cape Town on October 30, 2019. Picture: AFP

Seven children and five adults are still unaccounted for after police removed foreign nationals from a sit-in protest near the offices of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town, a spokesperson for the group said on Thursday.

“The police and law enforcement are rude,” Jean-Pierre Bousson said of the efforts to locate them.

“They say they don’t have anything to discuss with us.”

He had no further information on their whereabouts.

Sitting on a camp chair outside the bustling Cape Town Central Methodist Church, which took about 600 people in, he said his body was sore after Wednesday’s removals from the Waldorf Arcade in the CBD.

“I was one of those arrested and my body is sore and I am not feeling well.”

Western Cape police said on Wednesday that they were enforcing a court order which the owner of the building had obtained to have the foreign nationals removed.

About 100 people were arrested after they failed to heed a call to disperse, police said.

Bousson said police let all of them go late on Wednesday afternoon.

“They came and started chasing us out of the police station.”

He said they resisted this because they wanted to go to court to find out exactly what they had done wrong and what the charges would be.

“What crime did we commit? They just came and told us they don’t have a case against us.”

He said at least 100 people sustained injuries and accused the police of “inhumane treatment” against them.

In the meantime, nurses from St John first aid clinic were inside the church treating injured people and attending to those who have diabetes and high blood pressure first.

“Have you eaten today?” asked one of the sisters, going down the pews to check on people.

They will also provide referral letters to the District Six clinic for people who have body pain and chest problems.

The Gift of the Givers Foundation had already stepped in and the organisation’s Ali Sableer said that on Thursday they would provide a nutritious lunch and supper and distribute nappies and sanitary towels. They also brought blankets on Wednesday night.

The organisation’s founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, said: “The current impasse between foreign nationals and the United Nations necessitates a compassionate, humane and practical solution involving the UN, various organs of the South African government and the governments of origin of the foreign nationals.”

On Thursday, women were washing their faces outside and had set up a cooking row with braziers opposite the Greenmarket Square artists.

The group also spilt over to the Iziko museum property’s steps next to the church.

While adults bustled around, babies slept and tweens played with a ball in the church’s aisle.

With one of the pews turned into a bed, a family was heard singing happy birthday to a toddler dressed in a sparkly jersey for the occasion.

Outside, the men kept watch for the arrival of police.

“We are really thankful to the pastor (Reverend Alan Storey) and the way he opened the church,” said Bousson before attending to a queue of people who needed to speak to him.

The sit-in began on October 8. Documents were collected in the hopes that the group would be sent to a country other than the one they left.

They said that recent attacks on foreign nationals left them feeling unsafe in South Africa.

A UNHCR representative is understood to have spoken to some members of the group on Wednesday, but there was no resolution.

The refugee agency previously said those in the arcade did not meet the criteria for evacuation.

The arcade has been cleared, cleaned and barricaded off.

Additional comment from police and the UNHCR was not immediately available and will be added once received.

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