Refugees settle on KZN farm

Published Jul 8, 2015


Durban - The foreigners released from police cells this week are now getting on with their lives on Hope Farm in Cato Ridge.

The group of 85 adults and their 54 children were moved to the farm on Monday after they were released without being charged or appearing before the Chatsworth Magistrate’s Court as had been anticipated.

No charges were filed against them.

Now, the group has found a home, thanks to Andrew and Rae Wartnaby, who offered to accommodate the refugees and asylum seekers on their farm.

On a visit to the farm on Tuesday, the Daily News saw children playing in the chilly weather while adults were milling around. Those who felt the cold remained in a large brick and cement shed with a fire burning in the fireplace.

Two tents were put up and there were signs of more work still to be done.

Wartnaby said two marquees would go up on Wednesday on 2 hectares of land on the farm and ablution facilities would be installed.

He said the response from donors eager to help had been “amazing”.

“We are taking things a day at a time. This morning I made them cook their breakfast. I don’t want them to see this place as a refugee camp.

“They must just work on sorting out their lives until it gets back to normal.

“All the necessary help will be available for them with regards to the basic needs. The lawyers are working on sorting things on the political side and they will be here on Friday to talk to them,” he said.

He hoped every basic necessity would be in place by next week. Reading sessions would be arranged for the children.

Patric Lubsha, a Congolese, said they did not plan to stay in South Africa because they had lost everything after the xenophobic attacks.

“More than that, we don’t trust South Africans and their government. Since the attacks on foreigners started, things have become worse for us and we have had to endure difficulties in the refugee camps.

“Then things got worse when we were arrested because we refused to leave the Chatsworth camp.

“We didn’t want to go back to the local communities and we can’t go back to our countries of origin because of the instability,” Lubsha said.

In 2008, Lubsha escaped xenophobic attacks in Gauteng where he used to live and came to settle in KZN.

“I don’t know how I survived in Gauteng, but I’m not willing to go down the same road. I just want a peaceful place where we can raise our children. Our rejection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reintegration offer of between R3 300 and R7 000 was an indication that we want out, but we can’t do it on our own,” he said, adding that they were happy with the arrangement at the farm.

The Chatsworth camp was closed last Tuesday, and the group was arrested on Friday. The anticipated charges were contravening city by-laws and child neglect.

Sisters Bella Itangishaka, 19, and Lyse Ngabirano, 18, arrived in the country from Burundi with their mother when they were 5 and 6 years old.

“We have always considered South Africa our home, but after this, we want out. It is not safe and we know that South Africans hate foreigners. Even our parents agree that we must get out of here because of the hatred,” they said.

The two, in Grades 11 and 10, have not been to school since the attacks four months ago.

“Even if we were to be offered a chance to go back, we would not take it because it is not safe,” they said.

Some of the foreigners don’t have refugee status, but are asylum seekers. UNHCR spokesman, Acacio Suliao, warned that it took many years to resettle refugees.

“People need to understand the difference between asylum seeker and refugee status. We have been telling them this but they don’t want to listen. I still need to consult with eThekwini disaster management to understand the arrangement between the farm owners and the foreign nationals,” he said.

Daily News

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