WATCH: Three injured after chaos breaks out at Cape church housing refugees
Cape Town - Three people had to be treated at a nearby clinic for injuries after chaos and fighting broke out inside the Central Methodist Mission church on Greenmarket Square where hundreds of refugees have been sheltering after they were chased away from the nearby UNHCR offices just over two weeks ago.
Alan Storey the reverend in charge of the mission said he had led a group of concerned people and groups including the SA Human Rights Commission to speak to the refugees in the church this morning about the processes of getting them settled elsewhere and the options available to them.
“The people were understandably unhappy, there is a lot of mistrust and anger,” said Storey who added that he had asked the refugees to leave the church as, “it is no longer useful for what has been placed before them. It is no longer a safe space because of the overcrowding and risks involved such as fire etc.”
Storey said the trouble began when one of the pastors accompanying him began to speak to the refugees. “A number of people who came with me were beaten. Three are in a clinic (being treated). But thankfully there were also people who stepped in to protect us and for that we are grateful,” said Storey.
Speaking on behalf of the refugees in the church, Jean-Pierre Balous said: “This morning the pastor of this church (Storey) told us to call the people together as there was going to be a meeting.”
“As leaders of the refugees we were not consulted or informed about the agenda for the meeting, but we came along anyway,” said Balous.
The refugee leader said: “While Storey spoke to the refugees they were calm but they quickly became riled when Chris Nissen from the SA Human Rights Commission tried to address them.”
Balous said: “Nissen gave the microphone to someone else who he said was from the Adonis Musati Project and when that guy took the microphone, people got angry, stood up and pushed all of them saying we cannot be addressed by the people who are hurting us.”
Storey called for calm and said that “this morning’s chaos should not be used for further xenophobia or conflict”.@MwangiGithahu