PHOTO ESSAY: Clash between cops, refugees leaves woman screaming 'just kill us'
Cape Town - The refugees that staged a “sit-in” protest at the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in the CBD were forced to gather what was left of their belongings and seek refuge at the local Good Hope Metropolitan Community Church after they were evicted by the police.
The more than 5000 refugees and asylum seekers came as far as Port Elizabeth and Durban stage a month-long protest at the Waldorf Arcade mall with the hope of being taken to Canada, where “we will feel safe and welcome, where we will be treated like a human being".
Earlier on Wednesday businesses on Greenmarket Square came to a standstill after a confrontation between the police, law enforcement and the group of refugees turned violent.
The refugees were evicted following a court order by the owner of the Waldorf Arcade.
Bruised and sobbing Maria Netenga said: “We are suffering and are not safe. Going back to the townships and our countries is not an option. We are only fighting for our own rights, but the police saw it fit to assault and kill us.”
Kabongo Npiana Jean from Burundi said the government has failed the refugees and asylum seekers.
“I have been in the country for more than 15 years and have been struggling with official documents. I recently went to the bank to apply for an account but was told to bring a passport. How am I expected to produce a passport when I have been to Home Affairs for the past 15 years but all they do is renew the permit only for three and six months?” he said.
In one video that was captured of the confrontation, a few of the refugees on hand were voicing their frustrations and saying that the situation is "not fair". Later on in the clip, woman cries, "My kid is under arrest, my kid is under arrest.
"They put my kids in (the, and my two brothers," the unnamed woman cries. "I am done. Just kill us. Kill us..."
Bystanders who witnessed the eviction also had this to say:
Lulu Sizani said: “Whoever is responsible must help these people to go to Canada where they want to go. We are all affected by this and being disappointed will not solve the problem.
"The solution should come not only come from South Africa, but from their countries as well. What are those countries planning to do, when their people have run away?” she said.
Siyabonga Lolwana said: “Whoever brought these refugees in SA must come forward and take responsibility for what is happening. I am of the view that the receiving country must first be ready to accommodate people from other countries before they come. South Africans, on the other hand, are also angry for being labelled as xenophobic without addressing the real issues that are contributing to this situation.
"South Africans are also complaining that the system is overloaded, most of them cannot even find schools for their children, the public health care is overloaded and some are complaining that their cities have never been this dirty.”
Executive Director for Safety and Security, Richard Bosman said SAPS requested the City’s assistance for the operation and their officers were under the command of SAPS for the duration of the operation.
“It is unfortunate that the situation has descended into the scenes witnessed, but there is always a risk attached to matters of this nature. While this is a matter that the City has no control over, we have tried our utmost since the situation started, to strike a balance between the plight of the refugees and the City’s by-laws,” Bosman said.
“Ultimately, a legal order was granted and the laws of the country and the by-laws of the City must apply to everyone,” he added.