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Govt ‘unclear’ on whereabouts of refugees removed from PTA UNHCR offices

The foreign nationals were removed from the Brooklyn building by police after they gained illegal access to the premises of the UNHCR.

FILE: Foreign nationals on 16 October 2019 protested outside the offices of the UNHCR in Pretoria against xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Picture: Jean-Jacques Cornish/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Almost a week after hundreds of refugees were removed from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in Tshwane, government could not give a clear answer to questions on their whereabouts.

The foreign nationals were removed from the Brooklyn building by police after they gained illegal access to the premises of the UNHCR. They had been camping outside the building for over a month, pleading for relocation after the latest spate of xenophobic attacks in September.

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

Police in collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs carried out an operation on Friday where about 180 men and a woman were arrested for trespassing. Another group of women and children was also removed from the building on Waterkloof Road.

Officials said the women would be taken to a place of safety, but they spent most of the day on another pavement in the Tshwane CBD while police waited for instructions on where to take them.

On Saturday, police confirmed that the women and children were taken to the Lindela Repatriation Centre, where home affairs officials would verify their refugee status.

However, on Thursday, when asked about the whereabouts of these women and children, this was what home affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza said: “The court will make a pronouncement of what is going to happen going forward.”

The 180 refugees who were arrested last week appeared in court on Thursday for trespassing.