Asylum-seeking learners vow to continue their education amid eviction

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A group of refugee learners, camping outside the United Nations offices in Brooklyn, Pretoria, say no one will stop them from acquiring education.

They are part of a group that fled their countries with their families due to socio-economic and political tensions.

Despite the difficulties of living in makeshift plastic shelters, two 13-year-old girls from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi continue to teach each other a variety of subjects.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has recently ruled that the refugees mostly from the DRC, Burundi, South Sudan, and Kenya camping outside the United Nations’ offices be evicted and sent to Lindela Refugee Centre for the purpose of deportation back to their countries of origin.

This is what the two girls have to say about their desire to learn in the face of impending eviction.

“Our situation here is very, very bad. It’s just hard. We are on the streets. We are teaching each other some maths. If we don’t do it ourselves, I don’t see anybody volunteering to teach us.”

“Yeah, we just learning bit by bit. We are learning maths and any other subject we can. Just to revise it. We just learn like that.”

Eviction of refugees 

A large law enforcement contingent has been deployed outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees offices in Brooklyn, Pretoria, where a group of refugees is being evicted on Friday.

A court order had allowed the 104 refugees camping on the pavement of the UNHCR offices since 2019 to be removed.

Some refugees have been allowed to board vehicles bound for the Lindela Repatriation Centre by police. They comprise mostly Congolese, Burundian, and Kenyan nationals. These foreign nationals are among those refusing to be evicted.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Lawyer Louise du Plessis who is also present at the scene is urging law enforcement agencies to exercise caution and respect the rights of children, women, and men refugees as they carry out the eviction order.