Refugees left 'confused' as police split and remove them from UNHCR premises
Pretoria - After repeated warnings, police officers on Friday evicted refugees who have been occupying the premises of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) offices in Brooklyn in Pretoria.
The refugees have been camping outside the building since October 7, but Thursday entered the premises by jumping over the walls and gates, and then settled in the corridors and parking area.
This came after the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday gave the foreign nationals three days to vacate the area.
The refugees pre-empted their removal by moving onto the actual UNHCR property, arguing they were no longer on the pavement, hence the court order did not apply to them.
The refugees have been demanding to be sent to other countries because they fear xenophobic violence in South Africa.
Gauteng police spokeswoman Brigader Mathapelo Peters said a case of trespassing was opened at the Brooklyn police station.
"What we found is that there are more than 500 refugees but will only confirm later. We found men, women and children and we had to make plans to split them when we make arrests because of the resistance," Peters said.
She added that the police would deport those who were found to be in the country illegally.
"Those who are legal, will be dealt with accordingly," Peters added.
She said women and children were being taken to a different location where the department of social development would assist them.
Muna Mireille from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who has been in the South Africa for 27 years, said she was separated from her children during the raid.
"These officers came here and separated me from my children...They are nowhere to be found, they just pulled me out and said I should check my baby in the bus, but I don't know which bus to check, right now I'm confused. I don't know whether these officers are protecting us or doing xenophobic attacks," she said.
African News Agency (ANA)