Some of the more than 400 foreign nationals who have been camping outside the UN building in Brooklyn since last month.     Picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Some of the more than 400 foreign nationals who have been camping outside the UN building in Brooklyn since last month. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Fate of refugees camping at UN office in Tshwane still up in the air

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Nov 6, 2019

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Pretoria - No solution has yet been found regarding the hundreds foreign nationals camping outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, a judge urged the residents associations of Brooklyn and Waterkloof to meet the stakeholders.

Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, Judge Natvarlal Ranchod postponed the urgent application by the Brooklyn and Eastern Areas Citizens Association as well as the Waterkloof Homeowners Association until 11.30am today.

“I impress on the parties to co-operate to find a solution,” the judge said.

The applicants turned to the court on an urgent basis to force the City of Tshwane and Home Affairs to deal with the foreign nationals.

The about 400 foreign nationals, who have been camping outside the UN office since last month, were not represented or present in court.

One of the main problems was that their identities were not known and it was also unclear whether they were legally in the country.

Advocate Thys Strydom, representing the residents, said while they could not prevent these people from protesting there during the day, they wanted an interim interdict at this stage preventing them from being there and sleeping there between 5pm and 8am.

The residents also want to interdict them from erecting shelters, shacks or tents in the area, causing unpleasant or offensive smells which induced defecating on the pavements, and making fires or cooking food there.

In addition, the group must be prevented from blocking driveways, illegally parking vehicles in the area and creating a noise disturbance.

These were all in contravention of the municipal by-laws, which Strydom said the municipality had to enforce. He, however, wanted the municipality and Home Affairs to draw up a list of the names of the people and establish their status in the country.

The residents had no idea what the gripes of these people were, he said, and it was not their concern. They simply wanted the authorities to act against them as they were contravening by-laws each person in the city must abide irrespective of whether or not they were foreigners. In addition, the group was posing a nuisance to the residents.

If the interim order was issued, he said, a copy must be fixed to the fences and lampposts on Waterkloof Road. A UN High Commission on Refugees official should also notify the refugees by loudspeaker about the order.

Advocate Adrian Vorster, acting for the City, told the court that he agreed that the situation was unacceptable and that something had to be done about it.

But he said a practical solution must be found. He suggested Home Affairs went out and established the status of each foreign national there. Those illegally in the country must be removed and dealt with according to the department’s policy. Those, if any, who are legally here, must adhere to the by-laws as any normal resident in the country.

Vorster said the municipality did not formally oppose the application, but had a problem with the practicality of enforcing the orders if they were issued.

For instance, he said, the metro police did not have the authority to arrest the people for being illegally in the country.

Home Affairs said while it did not have a problem to go out and verify who was legally in the country, it could not do so alone and wanted to be accompanied by City officials, the Tshwane Metro Police and SAPS.

The department said those who were legally here must then be dealt with by the City in terms of its by-laws.

Judge Ranchod said this seemed to be an issue which required the co-operation of all parties involved.

If the parties do not see eye to eye, they will issue the court with draft orders today to see which is the most feasible.

Pretoria News

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