Calm restored after refugees removed from UN office
Neighbouring resident Beverly Preston said it had been a horrible period, and they were relieved they could now walk outside and jog freely.
Another resident, Daniel Machoga, said that while he understood the refugees’ plight, it was appalling the way the area had looked and if they had not been removed it would have been worse in the coming weeks.
The residents approached the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, which ruled that the foreign nationals had to leave the area within three days. However, they did not move, and instead invaded the UN property, forcing police to act.
Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said that as soon as police gained access to the property, the group started attacking them. The women were carrying babies, making it difficult for police to react.
“Water cannons were deployed and police were during that short space able to apply tactics that ultimately ensured minimum injuries.”
In the process, 24 police officers were injured, including six who had to be rushed to hospital as they had sustained more serious injuries.
Peters said 183 people were taken into custody and 224 women - some of whom were pregnant - 169 children and seven men were bused to Lindela Repatriation Centre, pending conclusion of the verification process by the Department of Home Affairs.
The 183 men and one woman were expected to appear before the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court today on charges of trespassing.
Provincial SAPS commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela thanked members of the UN Refugees Priority Committee and police provincial disaster management for ensuring that the operation was successful and ended with minimum incidents.
Police yesterday were still visible monitoring the building.
The UN refugee agency will also be stepping in to assist the foreign nationals with shelter, counselling and money.