The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in South Africa says it has reached an impasse with foreign nationals demanding to leave the country.

The UNHCR has disputed claims by some that it is not assisting them.

The foreign nationals have been forcibly removed by police last week from the UNHCR offices in Cape Town and Pretoria, where they had been camping for more than three weeks, demanding to be relocated to another country.

The police, who were enforcing a court order, have been criticised for the violent manner in which the removals were carried out.

UNHCR Regional Director, Valentin Tapsoba: “Relocation, or resettlement, or evacuation is not an option that is now on the table. We have 268 000 refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa… where are we going to take 268 000 people to? Where?  To which country? We will be in the position, those who are in front of UNHCR office in Pretoria or Cape Town, we will be in a position with the government help with all stakeholders, to make sure that you get decent housing for the entire family… but they don’t want to hear about it; what they want is just to be relocated… and we cannot do that.”

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