Foreign nationals camping outside the UN High Commission for Refugees in Brooklyn in protest against the recent xenophobic attacks in the country. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)
Pretoria - Foreigners squatting in Brooklyn told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi to evacuate them from South Africa for their own safety.

While they expressed relief to have spoken to Grandi, who was on a two-day visit to address their grievances, they said living in the country was not an option.

About 300 foreigners have been camping outside the UN building in Pretoria east for almost two weeks, calling for protection against xenophobic attacks.

Speaking on their behalf, Alex Mongo-Nkoy said they were happy to interact with Grandi, who sympathised with their ordeal. “He recognises us (refugees). He understands the xenophobic attacks that are happening in South Africa. It is not something that we can hide. He promised to speak with the government to protect the refugees,” Mongo-Nkoy said.

He said all campers were satisfied with the way Grandi viewed their issues, “because he is the one who has the last word about the refugees”.

“What we need, however, is protection. We need protection. We are a minority in South Africa. We don’t have any support.”

Refugees wanted to be taken to any safe place outside the country.

“We want the institution to help every refugee to be evacuated so that we may leave South Africa and go where we could get protection.”

He said refugees were not prepared to go back to their home countries due to prevailing tensions.

“We can’t go back to our home countries because there are wars. That is why we ran to South Africa. Some of the authorities think we are here because of proper documentation. We are not here because of proper documentation,” he said.

In a statement, it was said that Grandi met President Cyril Ramaphosa, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and senior government representatives to discuss the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers.

According to the statement, he praised South Africa’s commitment to protecting people fleeing countries affected by conflict, violence and persecution. “South Africa’s progressive laws and policies have provided a safe haven to many vulnerable people in need of protection and support but South Africa is overwhelmed.”

South Africa hosts 268 000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to government statistics.

Pretoria News