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UN Refugee Agency says working to help foreign nationals in CT

Citizens from various parts of the continent staged a sit-in on Tuesday at the agency's Cape Town offices demanding they be assisted to leave South Africa.

Foreign nationals pictured at the UN Refugee Agency Offices in Cape Town on 8 October 2019. The group asked the agency to help them leave South Africa. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The United Nations Refugee Agency said it was working with government to address concerns raised by foreign nationals.

Citizens from various parts of the continent staged a sit-in on Tuesday at the agency's Cape Town offices demanding they be assisted to leave South Africa.

They are desperate to leave this country because of safety concerns and xenophobic attacks.

The agency said South Africa was hosting close to 268,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Somalia, the DRC, and Ethiopia.

Some of the foreign nationals who slept outside the UN Refugee Agency on Wednesday said: “If South Africans don't want us, we will go!”

Women and children set down on blankets and cardboards in a crowded foyer and unpacked lunch and supper.

They've had enough of ongoing assaults, threats and business robberies in communities and public spaces.

An emotional Burundian woman Silva Nahinana said she would rather sleep on the floor than to go back into the community where she feared her life.

“We’re going to die here, we cannot wear our attires anymore because they’re going to know our nationality. They try to speak to you in isiXhosa, if you don’t answer them, they will know you’re not from here.”

Another woman from the DRC who spent the night with her two children, aged 8 and 6, said they had no future in South Africa.

“We don’t have a choice.”

The agency said they acknowledged the issues raised by refugees, including employment and self-reliance, documentation and personal security concerns.

It said it was working closely with authorities to continue providing protection through the issuance of appropriate identity documentation to facilitate access to health care, education and employment opportunities for all refugees and asylum seekers.

For its part, the South African government said it noted the protest.

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