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UNHRC reiterates to foreign nationals they can’t be repatriated as a group

The foreign nationals, among them refugees, had been staging a sit-in in and demanding they be helped to leave South Africa as they fear xenophobic tensions.

FILE: The foreign nationals, among them refugees, had been staging a sit-in at the Methodist Church in the Cape Town CBD and demanding they be helped to leave South Africa. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.

CAPE TOWN – The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) told foreign nationals who have sought shelter at a church In Cape Town's city centre that they can't be repatriated as a group.

They group has been living at the Methodist chapel for two weeks after being removed from outside United Nations (UN) offices.

The foreign nationals, among them refugees, had been staging a sit-in and demanding they be helped to leave South Africa as they fear xenophobic tensions.

Chaos erupted after foreign nationals turned on members of the Western Cape Refugees and Migrants Forum.

The forum said three of its members, including two pastors – the commission's Chris Nissen and Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba – were attacked.

The organisation's Patrick Matenga said: “Our members were very very attacked and they were in critical condition.”

Nissen said they went to report back to refugees that they couldn't be sent back to their home countries as a group.

“The pastor came up, and they started hitting the pastor and they were attacking us. They hit Reverend Makgoba against the forehead, they hit me against the head and my knees were literally on the ground and they were beating us.”

WATCH: Pta refugees: The life of a refugee doesn’t matter here

NO PLACE TO CALL HOME

At the same time, there appears to be no final destination for the refugees in Pretoria, who were removed from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee’s offices in the city on Friday morning.

They had camped outside the offices for over a month until they gained access to the premises on Friday.

On Wednesday, the High Court ordered that they leave the UN offices within three days – and the police moved in on Friday morning.

Women and children refugees were moved from the pavement of Waterkloof Road on Friday morning after Brooklyn residents won a court bid for them to move.

But now they have been moved to another pavement, this time in the Pretoria CBD.

Some of the refugees have told Eyewitness News that police tried to take them to two other places before they came there.

A woman who is part of the group that’s been moved said it seemed there was no plan for them.

“The police came and started to take us by force; they beat us and they sprayed us. They told us to get in the bus, and we asked them ‘Where are you taking us’ and they said, ‘You can’t know’.”

Police say once they have been moved from Brooklyn, it became the responsibility of social development to find them shelter.

Several refugees have been arrested and charged with trespassing.

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