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No such thing as refugee camps in SA, says Motsoaledi

The Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. File picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

The Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. File picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Published Apr 20, 2021


Cape Town - Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says more than 100 refugees have been assisted by the United Nations to go back to their home country.

Motsoaledi revealed this during a media briefing in Cape Town on Monday.

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While the United Nations had offered to repatriate those who wanted to return to their countries, the Minister said, two hours before the briefing, he was informed that 121 of the people protesting in the Mother City have since accepted this offer of going back home.

“They have signed voluntary repatriation and the International Office of Migration is preparing to fly them out of the country,” he said.

According to Motsoaledi, the department is aware of of people protesting in the city, who have indicated they will not accept any offer until they are resettled in another country.

Meanwhile, Motsoaledi has rubbished the notion that people have been placed in refugee camps in the region.

He reiterated that the term “refugee camp” should not be used loosely, as there is more meaning behind it.

“Very deliberately, this country – in its constitution – opted for a policy of non-encampment, meaning people who migrate to South Africa for one reason or the other, shall not be put in camps, or be subjected to life in refugee camps and all its ramifications,” he said.

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He added: “I think it is very important for people to understand this because time and time again, it gets distorted when we deal with this problem ... We don’t put anybody in any camp because they happen to not be South Africans. I think I need to repeat that it’s extremely important to understand this because many people, even the media, have persisted in characterising the shelters in Cape Town as refugee camps.”

He said while there were many refugees and asylum seekers living all over the cities, on farms, rural areas and villages in South Africa, none of them have been subjected to any camp whatsoever.

According to Motsoaledi, the situation in the Mother City, particularly around Bellville – at Paint City and Wingfield in Kensington – displays people who have come together.

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“These groups came together and were held up in the Methodist Church, in Cape Town, and claimed that they are being killed and need to be moved by the United Nations to a third country of resettlement. This is how it all started in Cape Town, some two years back.

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees made it clear, right from the onset, that such a demand will never be met because of resettlement to a third country happens under international law, and under certain rules and conditions, which most of the protesters did not qualify for.”

Motsoaledi further said these people were in the Methodist Church, they split into factions – which led to them clashing among themselves.

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He said of the 1 580 occupying both shelters in Bellville and Kensington, 583 who had applied for asylum seeker status were rejected and decided to appeal, in terms of the law, to the Refugee Appeals Authority of South Africa.

He said 264 of them had their appeals completed and that the remaining were being assisted.

Motsoaledi further said these facts meant that, right from the beginning, when protests started some two years ago, there were people who did not qualify under either the Immigration Act or Refugee Act, and even the United Nations Convention could not qualify them for international protection.

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Political Bureau

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City of Cape Town