Foreign nationals in Cape Town continues to sleep in Greenmarket Square and in the church, weeks after hundreds of foreign nationals sought refuge in Cape Town's Central Methodist Church after police fired stun grenades to get them out of the arcade where they were holding a sit-in outside UN offices. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African news agency(ANA)
Cape Town - Refugees still held up in the Central Methodist church and camped out on Greenmarket Square say they will walk in a mass caravan to the nearest border, similar to the refugee caravan from Uruguay to the US border, to highlight their plight about their safety in South Africa.

Protest leader Jean Pierre Balousa said they were planning a mass exodus to a border country, should negotiations with the UN Refugee agency (UNHRC) grind to a halt.

“The day we are going to leave this Methodist Church is the day that we are going to take the roads to any country that will be near the South African border. They have destroyed our future already,” he said.

SA Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen said Home Affairs undertook to assist and look at the time frames, refugees reception centres and other issues, not only for the protesting refugees.

“We respect their position (exodus). People can walk wherever they want to but we have to find a sustainable solution.

"Even if you walk to another country, your documentation must be in order.

"Other countries are not going to receive them without papers,” he said.

Organisations representing refugees and asylum seekers in Cape Town have come out calling for the department the Home Affairs to “restore the dignity” of African refugees.

In a statement, the organisations which include Xaveri SA, United Family, Association of Refugees Communities and Organisations of SA and Refugee Alliance for Justice, have likened the treatment of this group by the government to that of the apartheid system.

Foreign nationals in Cape Town continues to sleep in Greenmarket Square and in the church, weeks after hundreds of foreign nationals sought refuge in Cape Town's Central Methodist Church. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African news agency(ANA)
Foreign nationals say they will walk in mass caravan to the nearest border. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Refugees still held up in the Central Methodist church say they will take to the road to the nearest SA border to highlight their plight. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

The organisations said the African refugees in South Africa had for years been stealthily subjected to the most inhumane treatment imaginable by the leadership of the South African government through its Department of Home Affairs.

“If truth be told, without fear or favour, it could best be described like apartheid - for it has been segregating them before going on to unleash havoc on their lives by striking at their very human essence through a brutal and horrifying process of dehumanisation that strips them of every strand of human dignity,” the statement said.

Xaveri SA director Martin Mande said the refugees’ lives had been turned into lesser humans as they lived from hand to mouth and deprived of any potential or opportunity for improvement, or for preparing their lives for a better tomorrow.

“The violations of the basic rights of African refugees range from day to day bureaucratic delays by the department of home affairs to horrific crackdowns by the police on those African refugees whose papers are seen as being out of date,” he said

However, the UNHCR spokesperson Helen Caux said the protesting refugees and asylum seekers should disperse peacefully.

“The organisation working with the UNHCR can provide help to all refugees and asylum seekers who need social assistance and find a safe place to sleep and legal assistance for documentation and information on asylum,” she said.

Caux said the agency could only assist in the process of voluntary repatriation to the country of one’s origin and was not offering group resettlement out of South Africa.

She said resettlement was a solution only for a small number of refugees and asylum seekers and done on a case by case basis and not by application.

Foreign nationals to take to the road to the nearest SA border to highlight their plight. Video: Ayanda Ndamane/African news agency(ANA)
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