A group of refugees at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Wednesday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - Close to 200 refugees that were arrested for trespassing at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Brooklyn will appear before court at the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria.

The one-hundred-and-eighty-three people will have their trial heard at the prison for logistic and administrative reasons, with their appearances staggered over a number of days.

The group faces charges of trespassing, but the state has also indicated it will be investigating a case of public violence. 

The group had staged a sit-in at the UNHCR offices after demanding to leave South Africa because of a spate of xenophobic violence that hit Gauteng in September. 

On Wednesday, only 73 of those charged were in court. They appeared 20 at a time due to space constraints. Only one person had a legal representative and was able to provide a permanent address. 

But the man's lawyer told the court his client had since abandoned his bail application because his documents had expired. 

The rest of the accused have opted to represent themselves. They did not apply for bail as most do not have fixed addresses. 

Some of the group said they did not apply for bail because they could not afford it.

The remainder of the group is expected to appear over December 4 and 11.  

The state told the court that investigations were almost complete and that the matter may be going into a mediation process. This could result in the matter being withdrawn, depending on what unfolded during discussions. The outcome of the mediation process would be known by December 11 at the latest, the court was told. 

Most of the women and children who were removed from the UNHCR offices are believed to be at the Lindela Repatriation Centre, where their immigration status is being verified by the Department of Home Affairs.

- African News Agency (ANA)