There is still no clarity on what will happen with around 200 foreign nationals who are now camping out close to the Cape Town Central Police Station. This follows the group’s removal from the pavements at a church in the CBD a few days ago after law enforcement officials acted on a High Court order.
On Tuesday afternoon, an inter-governmental stakeholder meeting was held behind closed doors. In the meantime, the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has called on the foreign nationals to obey the laws of the land.
The group is now situated on the pavement around the corner from the police station. They moved there on Monday to hand themselves over for arrest. This is after the sheriff of the court gave them an ultimatum -to be relocated to the areas in Cape Town where they came from or face arrest.
A number of people were however arrested when they tried to gain access to another church after their removal from Green Market Square. There have been no mass arrests as of Tuesday afternoon.
The foreign nationals maintain that South Africa is unsafe for them and want to leave.
“If they do not open the door for UNHCR to do its mandate because the sole mandate is theirs to take care of the refugees and it knows what it can do, it’s UNHCR that can give a solution to this situation because South Africa failed to accommodate the refugees according to the Geneva Convention,” says one of the foreign nationals.
In the video below , SABC journalist Mariska Botha reports that the foreign nationals who were removed from Green Market Square say they have no where to go:
The City of Cape Town says it acted strictly within the confines of the court order. It says a small number of people indicated they wanted to stay, but would not cooperate with the necessary processes.
The court order does not compel the city to provide accommodation for the group.
The city says it has done all it can to assist.
“We are sitting with individuals who have not named and identified themselves in certain cases, or where they have named and identified themselves have not given an address where they lived. So we cannot corroborate that the claim they make of being unsafe in that space is in fact true. We can’t go and see if there is a criminal issue, was there an attack, is there a case number, is there a record in the police so they have not complied with section 4, therefore, they have removed the onus of the city to take any of that further and even if they did it’s only a very small percentage that are asking for that help,” says City of Cape Town’s JP Smith.
Green Market Square, where the group lived on the pavements, is now cleaned up and vendors are back to doing business.
As a major tourist attraction, visitors avoided the area during the three month period that the group were outside the church.
“Each tent in this market, at least four or five people are working in each tent. I have here at least 200 so when you make one week without making more than R100 it’s very bad, so we hope things are going to change, we are hopeful things will go right the way we want it,” says Green Market Square Association’s Mor Fall.
The Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has called for the full implementation of the City of Cape Town’s by-laws and the recently attained court order to ensure the matter is resolved.
It says the situation is untenable, despite numerous attempts to intervene, the group initially cited a fear of xenophobic attacks as their reason for moving from local areas. However, committee chairperson, Advocate Bongani Bongo says this is not a factor in Cape Town.