Refugees inside the Central Methodist church where the refugees has been for the past week. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - The demand of foreign nationals who are holed up in the Central Methodist Church to be relocated to another country because of safety fears in South Africa is not possible because the country is a refugee-hosting country and not a resettlement country.

This was said by experts at a round-table discussion on xenophobic violence at the Idasa Centre.

The group concluded that the demands of the refugees would not be possible because of a lack of legal representation and the poor assistance system in the country.

The regional director at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Sherylle Bass, said that many foreign nationals were struggling with documentation, and a lack of legal representation made this more difficult for them.

“Their demand of wanting to leave the country is not possible due to the fact that we are a refugee-hosting country and not a resettlement country.

Experts say because SA is a refugee-hosting country and not a resettlement country, we can't meet their demands to be relocated to another country. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Refugee woman praying inside the Central Methodist church where the refugees has been for the past week. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Elizabeth Sisango with her two-month-old baby inside the Central Methodist church where the refugees has been for the past week. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Congolese girl Amina Jah Bathunike inside the Central Methodist church where the refugees has been for the past week. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

“South Africa became a refugee-hosting country in 1998, but the system was not organised and did not have the necessary resources to protect refugees.”

“The government in this country is not obliged to provide resettlement to the refugees. Refugees have been informed about this, but they refrain from finding an alternative. The government can, however, help with voluntary repatriation, which means returning to their country of origin,” she said.

The director at Africa Unite, Zoe Nkongolo, said: “The refugees are desperate and believe that protesting and occupying spaces is the only option that could possibly allow them to receive help with leaving the country. They think this is the only way someone will listen to their plight.”

A week after the eviction of the refugees outside the offices of the UN High Comission for Refugees (UNHCR), the protesters keep on staying at the Central Methodist Church where the situation has not improved.

“We are open to every kind of negotiation that can involve the UNHCR. We don’t trust the government of South Africa and we need a guarantee from the UNHCR”, said the group’s leader, Jean Pierre Balous.

Refugee woman with her child inside the Central Methodist church where the refugees has been for the past week. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Trina Hajira from Kenya waiting to see the nurses inside the Central Methodist church where the refugees has been for the past week. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Refugee woman with her baby inside the Central Methodist church where the refugees has been for the past week. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Experts say because SA is a refugee-hosting country and not a resettlement country, we can't meet their demands to be relocated to another country. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
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