Chaos erupted when police moved in to evict foreign nationals staging a three-week sit-in outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices at Waldorf Arcade, Cape Town. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - Human Rights group Amnesty International has called on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to exercise restraint when dealing with protestors. 

The call was made following a standoff between police and foreign nationals protesting in the streets of Cape Town on Wednesday.

The foreign nationals had been camping outside the UNHCR offices in Cape Town and Pretoria for three weeks, asking to be resettled outside of South Africa, claiming that they did not feel safe. 

Police were granted an interdict to remove the group earlier this month. Over 100 protestors were arrested and released on warnings. 

Crying children and their parents, who are foreign nationals, being dragged by police outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office at Waldorf Arcade in Cape Town. Video: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Refugees who have been camped out in front of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Cape Town for three weeks were evicted on Wednesday and some were arrested together with their children. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

“The use of rubber bullets and stun grenades was unnecessary and clearly exacerbated the situation. In addition, we are concerned that these methods were used while there were children present, and that this may have caused trauma and injury to them. The authorities are the duty bearers and must urgently find alternative, and safer, ways of dealing with crowds," said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa. 

Mohamed said it was critical that the South African authorities and the UNHCR work urgently to resolve the situation in Cape Town, as well as in Pretoria, in order to keep people safe and to protect their human rights.

Picture: Phando/Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Amnesty International released a report on Tuesday highlighting the challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa.

“The current asylum management process system is failing everyone and standoffs like today's are a direct consequence of this. In persisting with a broken system, the government leaves those trying to claim asylum undocumented and vulnerable to harassment, arrest and detention,” said Mohamed.

Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

“They cannot work, they cannot access education or healthcare. They are living in limbo and they are desperate."

Until these issues were resolved, South Africa would continue to see outbreaks of violence, xenophobia and attacks involving foreign nationals, said Mohamed. 

Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

African News Agency (ANA)