The UNHRC has called on refugees and asylum seekers to respect the laws of the country after clashes with police in the streets of Cape Town on Wednesday. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRC) has called on refugees and asylum seekers to respect the laws of the country after clashes with police in the streets of Cape Town on Wednesday. 

In the streets of Cape Town outside the UNHRC, where some foreign nationals have been camped for weeks in an attempt to seek asylum outside of South Africa, complained about a lack of protection and safety.

Police had been granted a court order to remove them from the offices. 

During clashes, police had to disperse a crowd by firing teargas. There were reports of police using excessive force as they made several arrests. 

Pumla Rulashe, a spokesperson for the UNHCR Regional Representation for Southern Africa, said the refugee agency was watching developments in Cape Town closely. 

“The UN Refugee Agency, is closely following developments in front of its office in Cape Town, South Africa, where police – pursuant to a court order - is acting to address the protest by refugees and asylum-seekers. 

“The police action is being undertaken after refugees and asylum seekers staged a sit-in protest since 8 October at UNHCR’s office in Cape Town.

“UNHCR appeals to refugees and asylum-seekers involved in the protests in Cape Town and Pretoria to respect the laws of the country. We also call upon them to return peacefully to their residences in South Africa. UNHCR and its partners stand ready to provide assistance to those in need,” said Rulashe.


Rulashe said the UNHCR had been engaging with the refugees and asylum-seekers since the occupation of the area commenced. She said they encouraged the refugees to participate in constructive dialogue to address their grievances and find a peaceful resolution to the situation.

“UNHCR has received the concerns of the protesters with regard to personal safety, access to documentation, challenges accessing services and job opportunities. The protesters also expressed demands for resettlement, which is only available for a limited number of very vulnerable refugees,” said Rulashe.

The refugee agency said they were over 268 000 refugees and asylum-seekers in the country and described South Africa as a “generous host country with progressive asylum policies and laws”.

“UNHCR and its partners will continue to support the Government in providing assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in the country,” said Rulashe. 

IOL