Foreign nationals plot next move after removals in Pretoria, Cape Town

The foreign nationals and refugees want to be relocated to other countries, saying they were not safe in South Africa due to xenophobic attacks.

Refugees and foreign nationals outside the UN Refugee Agency building in Brooklyn, Pretoria where they have been removed from the area by police on 15 November 2019. Picture: Kgomotso Modise/EWN

PRETORIA/CAPE TOWN - The final group of refugees who had been camping outside the United Nations Refugee Agency in Pretoria has now been taken away in police vans.

Police and immigration officials removed them from Waterkloof Road in Brooklyn a short while ago.

The refugees from countries including Burundi and the DRC had been there for over a month, demanding to be taken to a place of safety after the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

On Wednesday, the High Court ordered that they be moved within three days.

The police's Mathapelo Peters said that when they arrived on Friday morning, police were met with resistance.

She said that the Social Development Department had taken the women and children in.

Home Affairs officials were also here.

They have started the verification process to see whether all those here were refugees.

Meanwhile in Cape Town, hundreds of foreigners who had been living in a church were considering their next move after they were told to leave.

The instruction came from the reverend, who had given them refuge in the Methodist chapel off Greenmarket Square a few weeks ago after police had forcibly removed them from outside the offices of the UN Refugee Agency nearby.

They had camped out there for weeks, also demanding that the UN helps them relocate to their home countries due to xenophobia in South Africa.

Women and men packed up their belongings, including blankets, clothes and plastic boxes with books and toys.

Some were still inside the chapel, sleeping on floors and feeding their babies while others were standing on the side of the road, all packed up.

Refugee activist JP Balous said they were told to leave the church this morning.

"'From today, you must prepare yourself and leave this church. I don't want to see you here anymore'. That's what the priest said. The organisations came here without our knowledge. When they spoke, it was the masses that stood against them."

Leader Papy Sukumi said that the foreigners expected the announcement but got upset when a representative from Western Cape Refugee and Migrants Forum spoke because they felt the organisation had done nothing to assist refugees in Cape Town.

"They were fighting in the church and I intervened. I shouted at people and asked them to calm down. I then asked the secretary to clear a way for the delegation and other stakeholders to move away from the church."

It’s still not clear whether the foreigners would heed the call to leave the church.

Earlier, the Human Rights Commission's Chris Nissen described the scuffle that broke out after a fellow religious leader started speaking on stage.

"The Archbishop of Cape Town was on stage and they started attacking us. They hit the very Reverend Makgoba and they hit me on the head."

Nissen said that he was waiting for tempers to simmer down before heading back to the church.

"We'll go back and see if we can meet with the leaders again. They said they want to walk. The church is very, very unsafe. In fact, the fire department had a look at it and I think they'll come back and say it is unsafe."