Refugees at the refugee settlement at Paint City Bellville where they have been housed for the duration of the lockdown. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency
Refugees at the refugee settlement at Paint City Bellville where they have been housed for the duration of the lockdown. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency

Parliament weighs in on Cape refugee crisis

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Oct 21, 2020

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Cape Town - Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs has intervened in the refugee crisis arising from those who occupied Greenmarket Square and the Central Methodist church. Both groups were eventually moved to Pain City in Bellville and Wingfield in Kensington because of the lockdown.

Portfolio committee chairperson Bongani Bongo said: “It is unacceptable that to this day, when we should be looking at concluding the matter and finding solutions, there are no collective decisions but bickering and finger-pointing, and continuing disputes about the mandate of the different spheres of government.”

Bongo said the only way consensus could be reached was if an oversight visit was conducted at the temporary sites where the refugees are housed.

“It is concerning that there are various reports of non-adherence to health protocols at the sites where the refugees have been placed. Also, the reports of an increase in the number of refugees at these sites must be investigated to ascertain who are the additional people, and if they have the necessary permits as the initial group.

“To find workable solutions to this matter, the committee will undertake an oversight visit to both the Paint City and Wingfield temporary resettlement sites to assess the living conditions and ensure that the exit plan is implemented,” said Bongo.

The Department of Home Affairs told the committee that it was formulating a exit strategy but the national state of disaster has had a significant impact on the department’s plan.

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “The people who were removed from the church were approximately 550. It has now been reported that since the asylum seekers and refugees are being fed on a daily basis, the number has increased to more than 1000. The department must consider deportation to their countries of origin.”

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said: “The City is providing tents, water and sanitation at the site at Wingfield where we were part of the decision to place facilities. We cannot do so at the site at Bellville, as this was done without the consent of the City. The City cannot supply specialised access to services to refugees that we do not provide also to South Africans.”

There have been concerns from Goodwood, Factreton and Kensington residents that refugees who have been staying at the Wingfield Military Base could be there permanently.

Jesús Pérez Sánchez, the protection officer at UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told the committee: “I want to officially reaffirm from UNHCR that refugees and asylum seekers are indeed accountable to laws of South Africa and Constitution.”

Cape Argus

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