Close to 300 foreign nationals have been removed from the street outside the Central Methodist Church in the Cape Town CBD. They have been living on the pavement along Burg and Long market Streets since October 2019.
A large group of law enforcement officers loaded the personal possessions of the foreign nationals onto trucks on Sunday morning. The city acted on a court order to remove the foreign nationals and effect its by-laws.
The process went ahead despite some protests from some people. The affected refugees say they have nowhere else to go.
“As we don’t trust South Africa or the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) anymore, we are going to find the next step ourselves, even if we walk out of South Africa because this is not human.”
Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith says the foreign nationals were informed timeously about an operation to remove them.
“The City of Cape is not insensitive to the plight of the refugees, but we simply cannot allow the situation to carry on unchecked as it’s has become a major problem and serious impact on the surrounding businesses, including the traders on Green Market Square. Furthermore we not in a position to provide emergency shelter to the group, given a great need that exist among South Africans, we appeal to the refugees to return to their homes they vacated last year in October to join the occupation of St Georges Mall,” says Smith.
Last month, the high court in Cape Town ruled that the foreign nationals may no longer live, sleep, cook and wash in public spaces. It ordered the city and the home affairs department to inform and document approximately 300 foreigners living outside the Central Methodist Church.
In this video below, police remove foreign nationals from the Cape Town CBD.
The City applied for an interdict in 2019 after more than 600 foreign nationals moved into the church, but not all could be accommodated inside. Many of them slept, cooked and washed outside the church.
Acting Cape Town High Court Judge Daniel Thulare gave the City had a week to execute the order.
“Since October 2019 we have been prohibited from enforcing the city by-laws, which has led to absolutely an untenable situation around Green Market Square despite complaints from businesses, informal traders, residents, tour operators and everybody else. The court decision means that we now have a process, which includes the City supplying a venue for the Department of Home Affairs to do the screening of foreign nationals, which we will do within the seven days that the court order requires,” says City of Cape Town’s JP Smith.
Foreign nationals say they are disappointed with the court ruling:
Smith says any plan to settle somewhere else in the CBD will be in contempt of court. Some affected people have called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to intervene.