Sad plight of refugees in SA as asylum seekers stage three week sit-in

By Brendan Magaar Time of article published Oct 26, 2019

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Cape Town - When US President Donald Trump slashed the number of refugees allowed into the US, and the administration implemented the family-separation policy as a “zero tolerance” approach intended to deter illegal immigration and to encourage tougher legislation, the world took notice and protested against this.

Yet in the heart of the Cape Town's CBD, there are hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers sleeping outside the offices of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), wanting to leave our country in fear of their lives.

Our country does not seem to care.

I have been taking pictures of the refugees for almost three weeks now, and I've heard many horrifying stories of the treatment that these refugees received while trying to make a life for themselves in our “Rainbow Nation”.

The one thing that is extremely disappointing is that we are a nation that knows struggle and we pride ourselves on the fact that we have risen from that, and we are trying to build a better, equal South Africa for all.

But we cannot accept our fellow Africans who came to our country asking for our help. Instead we turn our backs on them.

Women with babies as young as three months old are sleeping outside because they do not want to go back to Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Philippi or wherever it may be in Cape Town because they are genuinely scared for their lives.

One woman, who chose not to be identified, told me that she was raped and physically abused in the Congo. She came to South Africa to make a better life for her five children. But what she experienced here was far from what she had hoped for.

“I have been hit with bottles and bricks and been stabbed for being foreign. I do not want to be here anymore, I want to go somewhere safe.”

They have been sleeping on cardboard and thin mattresses on dirty floors in the Waldorf Arcade, cooking, eating and washing themselves and the dishes in these conditions.

There's no clean water or proper ablution facilities, and all these refugees have been asking for is help for them to leave the country.

“All I did wrong was open a barber shop, and I was robbed and stabbed because they say I'm stealing the jobs here in South Africa,” said a young man from Burundi who has been living in South Africa for seven years.

“My house was burnt down because I'm from Ethiopia. I have nothing, nowhere to go, my child is sick, I need help,” said Gennit Ragasa.

“The children are starting to get sick, my child has not eaten without vomiting for four days, I am really worried about her,” said Anna Bobina from the DRC.

I have spoken to at least 10 mothers whose children had fallen ill.

I appeal to medical doctors, nurses or any other medical professional to please assist.

Why are these acts of hatred being allowed in our country?

Has our country not seen enough hate, violence, and intolerance?

Are we sending a message that we are striving to be a country that is truly a nation where all are treated with acceptance or are we a “Rainbow Nation” with a grey area?

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