South Africans must be reminded that the ancestors of almost all SA citizens arrived as migrants, refugees or colonial settlers at the southern tip of Africa and wiped out the Indigenous San / Bushman people in most provinces. Therefore respect given to refugees is respect given to their own heritage.

And the refugees must not place nor be given false hope in UNHCR, which is a failed almost 69 year old programme of the United Nations that has outlived its usefulness worldwide and must be retired. Especially the South-African office of UNHCR is among the most inefficient branch-offices of UNHCR globally with an endless and inexaustible number of bureaucratic excuses, why they don't help but rather eat the money they get by themselves, attend regional conferences and write bla-bla reports instead of providig pro-active help. And, if refugees do no longer buy the lies of UNHCR, then the UNHCR officials with their diplomatic passports calls in the police brutality to repulse the suffering and destitute people from their doorsteps. Shame on UNHCR and the South African government.

Refugees ‘angry’ and ‘traumatised’ after violent eviction

Hundreds of refugees sought shelter at Central Methodist Church after being evicted by law enforcement officials from their occupation outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Cape Town on 30 October 2019. Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba

By Karabo Mafolo & Sandisiwe Shoba - MC - 31 October 2019

After spending a night sleeping on the hard pews and cold floor of the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town, hundreds of refugees who were violently evicted from the Waldorf arcade by police on Wednesday are still trying to determine what their next steps will be. For many the focus is on finding the seven children, one as young as seven months old, who they say went missing in the chaos on Wednesday.

Inside the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town on Thursday morning, blankets, bags and personal belongings of hundreds displaced people lined the walls. In the pews and on the floor, women and children who had made the space their beds for the night began to wake to face the day. Outside, men who slept outside the church because of the limited space inside covered themselves with the purple blankets donated the night before by Gift of the Givers.

The group took refuge at the church following a violent eviction from the Waldorf arcade at the hands of the police on Wednesday. It is likely to be home for a while as their pleas to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to transport them out of South Africa have yet to be acceded to.

“My body is sore. I’m so tired, all the men slept outside,” said Daud Haider from Bangladesh. “We were attacked yesterday, there was no warning, no notice. There are a lot of people who have been injured,” said Haider.

Hundreds of displaced foreign nationals staged a sit-in at the (UNHCR) on 8 October asking the UNHCR to resettle them to a safer country following yet another outbreak of xenophobic violence in late September.

On Wednesday, 30 October, when refugees were removed from the Waldorf arcade, 100 people were arrested, according to the SAPS Western Cape media liaison, Brigadier Novela Potelwa. One of them is JP Balous.

“They beat me, they shot me (with rubber bullets), they pepper sprayed me, I couldn’t see for four to five hours. I lost consciousness and then I woke up in the cell,” said Balous, who added that everyone who was detained was released around 5pm on Wednesday.

Sheryll Dass, an attorney from the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) who helped the displaced foreign nationals who were detained, said the way that the police handled people on Wednesday “was definitely unreasonable and was definitely uncalled for”.

Minister Alan Storey from the Central Methodist Church agreed that police “completely overreacted”.

“They were shooting stun grenades just a few metres from children,” he said.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/karabo-yogi-refugee-church-inset-2-768x384.jpg

A 37-year-old refugee from Burundi sits inside Central Methodist Church. Her hand was injured when she was dragged out of St. George’s Mall Waldorf Arcade by law enforcement officers on 30 October 2019. Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba

A 44-year-old woman from Congo who refused to be identified said she was manhandled by the police while carrying a baby on her back. A number of women seated next to her broke down in tears. They said the trauma was unbearable.

A group of medical professionals from the church called the Central Methodist Mission Doctors organised a makeshift clinic to assist those who were injured. St John ambulance also provided care.

One volunteer said they hadn’t counted the number of people they had treated but had been dealing with patients since 2pm the day before. She said a large number of injuries were caused by rubber bullets, pepper spray and beatings.

“One woman was kicked by 10 police officers,” she said. “A few children inhaled pepper spray.”

A 33-year-old mother from Kenya felt there was “no future for her children” in South Africa.

“They can’t go to school because they don’t have birth certificates,” she said. Her daughter is enrolled in school, but she is bullied, the woman explained.

“Some South African kids don’t want to play with my daughter, they call her makwerekwere.”

Sylvie Nahimina, who was lying down in a small room covered with blankets on the floor adjacent to the church pews, said that once everyone had moved their belongings into the church, they checked to see who was there and whether everyone had all their possessions. “As we were checking, we realised that there were children missing. Seven children are missing, the youngest is a seven-month-old baby,” said Nahimina.

She explained that the mothers had been searching for their children the entire night with no success.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/karabo-yogi-refugee-church-main-768x384.jpg

A 38-year-old refugee from the Congo, pictured with her two children, sits on the steps of the Central Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square on 31 October 2019. She was part of the occupation group evicted from St. George’s Mall Waldorf Arcade on 30 October 2019 and had not eaten any food since then. Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba (Permission granted to use photograph unedited).

At a meeting with refugees to discuss the way forward Dass said that the LRC was working with the couple who lost their seven-month-old baby.

“(Yesterday) we contacted the Department of Social Development to enquire whether the police had the department of social development at the eviction site. They told us they weren’t. So we need to hold them accountable and ask them why they weren’t there,” said Dass.

Activist Zackie Achmat said it would be helpful if they could ask the parents of the missing children to find pictures of their children to give to the police. Nahimina pointed out that the police had taken their cellphones and wallets, and many parents had probably lost any family photos they had.

Daily Maverick was unable toestablish the names of the children at the time of publication.

Potelwa could not confirm if there were seven missing children. She said she would have to check if a missing person’s case was filed before she could comment.

Nahimina is adamant that she wants the UNHCR to resettle her to a different country.

“UNHCR does not resettle groups of people. They can help resettle individuals but you’d have to be a recognised refugee or the UNHCR would have to determine if you’re a refugee. They’d need to have an in-depth assessment and a protection assessment with the individual,” said the LRC’s Dass.

Achmat said no one will be evicted from the church, but thought that religious groups should come together “to talk about lifting the burden from the Methodist church so that people can sleep better”.

Storey couldn’t give a time line for how long refugees would be sheltered at the church but confirmed there were no plans to move them.

Achmat said they would be lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against police brutality.

 

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres - the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who was promoted Secretary General of the UN  though he left this United Nations programme with the mandate to protect refugees , forcibly displaced communities and stateless people in a great mess - must order the present UNHCR boss, Filippo Grandi, to immediately stop the current practice that UNHCR branch offices call in rogue governmental police units to brutalize destitute refugees, who just complain that their cases are not heard and that they are mistreated, or have their doors guarded by highly corrupt and cruel guards from infamous private security companies. UNHCR has turned into an inhuman giant that must be brought down and a humane agency must evolve to provide protection and true help.

100 ARRESTED

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-01-blurred-1000x667.jpg

Chaos enveloped St George’s Mall in Cape Town after police were called in to evict around 300 refugees and asylum seekers who had camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in Cape Town on 30 October 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

Children yanked from mothers’ arms in Cape Town as police break up migrant sit-in

By Karabo Mafolo and Aisha Abdool Karim - DM - 30 October 2019

Chaos enveloped St George’s Mall in Cape Town after police were called in to evict around 300 refugees and asylum seekers who had camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) building on Wednesday morning. About 100 people were arrested.

St George’s Mall Waldorf arcade was filled with screams and crying as police began to move through the building, dragging people across the floor and yanking children from their mothers’ arms.

For the past month, the group of asylum seekers and refugees have been occupying the UNHCR offices inside  the arcade. But an eviction order was issued and on Wednesday, a group of around 100 officials from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other law enforcement officers arrived at the building and began forcibly removing people.

Daily Maverick arrived at the scene just after 11am as police fired three stun grenades outside the arcade, where the occupation had been taking place. Groups of armed police officers began entering the building and removing certain people. It was unclear how police were distinguishing who would be arrested and who was allowed to leave the premises.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-03-768x384.jpg

Cape Town Law Enforcement officers break up a protest by foreign nationals in Cape Town on 30 October 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

As police moved through the corridor, walking over the mattresses and belongings which lined the floor, the officers began to use pepper spray while dragging some of the refugees out. Other officers went to mothers who were sitting on mattresses to the side. When the women refused to leave, or in one instance where a woman was injured and unable to stand, police began to grab the children from their arms.

“They just pushed us and our babies out like we’re rubbish, I have a small child with me and they could’ve hurt us,” said Theresa, a refugee from Burundi, who didn’t want to give her last name. “I just want my family to feel safe and we’re not safe here, South Africa is a bad place to stay in. I want to leave,” said a visibly emotional Theresa.

 

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-02-768x384.jpg

SAPS Public Order Police members detain a foreign national who was part of the occupation inside the St George’s Mall arcade, on 30 October 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

Several of the children ran back to their mothers after being pulled away; however, they were once again removed by the police. Once the children were taken out of the building, the remaining police officers told the mothers to leave the building and that their children would be returned to them outside.

After the majority of the building had been cleared, around five women came back into the building saying that they were unable to find their children. They yelled at the police that they needed to return their children or help them find them. Daily Maverick did not witness any police helping to reunite mothers with their children and it is unclear if these women received police assistance.

Some of the foreign nationals in the occupation returned to retrieve their belongings once the majority of the police had left. Some were told by police officers that the entire building would be cleared and all their belongings would be taken to the nearest police station where they could fetch them the next day. Some officers allowed those who were willing to leave the building voluntarily to collect their belongings before leaving and a few assisted them in carrying their bags outside.

Once the building had been cleared, police erected a fence to prevent people from re-entering. The crowd of 200 evicted foreign nationals then congregated outside the building entrance, chanting: “This is xenophobia”, “You are killing us” and “We want to go”.

Police used a water cannon to disperse the gathering crowd outside. However, they remained undeterred. One man stood directly in front of the water cannon with his arms open, saying, “Just shoot me, just kill me now”.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-08-768x512.jpg

Children were among the foreign nationals who were forcibly removed from the St George’s Mall arcade on 30 October, 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

After firing the water cannon around six times, the crowd continue to congregate and chant. The police then fired another two stun grenades and began moving the crowd towards Greenmarket Square. Some foreign nationals then began throwing water and pieces of wood at the advancing police line before they scattered in various directions. A police line was then set up to prevent the group from returning to the area outside the building.

Outside of the Waldorf building, Berliy Bokemo, from the DRC, looked on as people removed their belongings from the building. “They’re removing people violently (from the building). They’re pushing everyone around, even the babies,” said Bokemo.

“I don’t feel safe here. The UNCHR must take care of me and take me to a safer country. You can see even with the way the police treat us that we’re not safe,” Bokemo told Daily Maverick.

The occupation started in early October when groups of foreign nationals camped outside the UNHRC offices in the Waldorf Building in Burg Street in Cape Town’s CBD. Refugees had demanded the UN assist them with either taking them back home or helping them return to their home.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-05-768x512.jpg

The scene at the entrance to the St George’s Mall arcade as police enter to break up a sit-in on 30 October 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

SAPS’ Western Cape media liaison, Brigadier Novela Potelwa, said in a statement that around 100 people were arrested. According to Potelwa, police were on the scene to provide support to a sheriff of the court, who had been there to execute an eviction of around 300 refugees and asylum seekers. A court order was granted for the eviction by the courts on 18 October, said SAPS.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-11-768x384.jpg

Police sprayed water cannons to break up a sit-in outside the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cape Town on 30 October 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

 

When specifically asked by Daily Maverick about the brutality displaced towards women, SAPS referred back to the statement.

“As part of the execution of the court order, taking into account the size of the group, officials from the departments of Social Development and Home Affairs are also present to offer technical support to the situation,” said SAPS.

Activist Zackie Achmat, who Daily Maverick observed asking the police for their court order, said: “Even if it’s done with a court order, you don’t do it that way.”

Some of the refugees sought shelter in the Central Methodist Church. Daily Maverick spoke to some of the people moving into the church, including families.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-10-768x384.jpg

A woman cries while gathering her belongings in Greenmarket Square. Photo: Noah Tobias

Kalonji Tiwasaka, a refugee from the DRC who has been in South Africa for seven years, described how heartbroken he was to have left the violence in the DRC to be met with even more violence in South Africa. “I left the violence and the fighting (in the DRC) for more violence here,” said Tiwasaka as he tried to hold back tears.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/wp-content/uploads/aisha-refugee-eviction-09-768x384.jpg

After the intervention by police,  migrants move their belongings and bedding into Central Methodist Church. Photo: Noah Tobias

“They’ve asked us to leave (the Waldorf building) but we don’t have anywhere to go,” said Tiwasaka.

Additional reporting by Suné Payne.

 

Police drag a woman outside the St George’s Mall arcade on 30 October 2019. Chaos enveloped St George’s Mall in Cape Town after Public Order Police were called in to evict around 300 refugees and asylum seekers who had camped outside the United National Human Rights Council building in Cape Town. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

‘These are essentially human beings, people like us’

By Imtiaz Sooliman - 31. October 2019

Distressing images of law enforcement officials evicting refugees and asylum seekers camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees building in Cape Town on Wednesday morning has been beamed around the world. Babies were ripped from mothers’ arms and at least 100 people were arrested. In this piece, Gift of the Givers’ Dr Imtiaz Sooliman calls for a response that is humane, compassionate and practical.  

The current impasse between foreign nationals and the United Nations necessitates a compassionate, humane and practical solution involving the UN, various organs of the South African government and the governments of origin of the foreign nationals.

The foreign nationals don’t want to stay in South Africa. That is an established fact. They have been targeted, live in fear, their documents are not accepted and they are rapidly becoming unemployable for a myriad reasons, in an economically depressed and socially challenged South Africa.

The complication in this whole matter arises from the request of the foreign nationals to be granted asylum in a third country and not be repatriated to their country of origin (this is understandable given the terrible history of conflict in Africa). But is there any “third” country that is willing to accept these stranded men, women and children? If yes, then they need to be moved as soon as all related processes are completed. If no country wants to accept them, it has to be a choice of repatriation to their country of origin or remain in South Africa.

The hard decision they have to make is, is it better to return to the countries they departed from or remain in South Africa, where the hope of a better life for asylum seekers, economic migrants and the like has all but evaporated? Contemplating such a life directing decision needs deep introspection and a stable, secure environment. No matter what likes or dislikes South Africans may have around foreign nationals for whatever reason, these are essentially human beings, people like us, women, children and the elderly, all are not criminal, all are not whatever negative concept we want to conjecture in our prejudiced minds driven by stereotypes of some or other experience.

Babies and children are involved here, women who are vulnerable, even men who may have “run” because of monstrosities in their country of origin. All they want is an opportunity to live peacefully, in dignity and to provide their families with stability and security. Yes, it is clear that elements of vice, drug peddling, human trafficking and extortion arise from within their ranks, but that is no justification to tarnish entire communities with the same brush of xenophobic hatefulness.

We are fortunate that we were not born in their countries for we could have been in their situation now. Yes, we had our own challenges and it wasn’t pretty, but we survived and we overcame. Our Ubuntu spirit can surely allow us to embrace, or at least not harm, a fellow human and that too of African origin.

The United Nations, working in tandem with the South African and relevant African governments, should set up a camp of safety and dignity with all amenities (if the foreigners don’t want to return to the areas where they were living until a few weeks ago) while plans are made of repatriation, in all likelihood, to their own countries.

Gift of the Givers salutes the Methodist Church and its religious leaders for the generosity of spirit in embracing a “broken” people. The SAPS have a tough job to do, the challenges are many; they live lives fraught with danger but they need to exercise calmness, a cool temperament and a measured response, especially when dealing with women and children.

There has been an outpouring of condemnation from South Africans on the numerous high-profile gender-based crimes in recent weeks. Women need to be treated with respect, irrespective of the circumstances; are they any less of a woman, being a foreign national?

Gift of the Givers has intervened with blankets for the refugees; greater support will follow with meals, nappies, sanitary pads, bottled water and, above all, compassion and reassurance.

Destitute refugees don't receive proper medical care in South Africa.

NHI Bill deviates from goal of universal health coverage

By Thuthukile Mbatha & Kholofelo Mphahlele for Spotlight - 31 October 2019

Under the current bill, refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants will get only limited access to healthcare.

Since the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 8 August 2019, the debate about the plan, which promises to fundamentally change healthcare in South Africa, has heated up. The latest version of the Bill proposes limited access to healthcare services for population groups such as asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. Currently, refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants from SADC states legally enjoy the same health benefits as South Africans, including being means-tested to determine the level of state subsidisation of the cost of their healthcare services. This is, however, not always true in reality as can be seen by the growing number of reported cases of migrants allegedly being refused access to healthcare services on the basis of their citizenship.

Recently, a woman of Zimbabwean origin was allegedly refused care at Mamelodi Hospital and consequently lost her child at birth. A similar incident was reported to have occurred at the same hospital in January. Over the years, civil society organisations such as SECTION27 and Lawyers for Human Rights have helped migrants who were denied access to healthcare services in public hospitals to receive care as required by law.

Section 27 of the Constitution guarantees everyone living in South Africa the right to access healthcare services including reproductive health care services. According to the NHI Bill, however, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants will only be entitled to emergency medical care and services for notifiable medical conditions such as tuberculosis and malaria.

This is in contrast with the previous version of the bill, released in 2018, which entitled asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants to access emergency and primary healthcare services, maternal health services and services for notifiable conditions of public health concern. The proposed package of care afforded to asylum seekers and undocumented migrants has drastically decreased, both from the current entitlements and when compared to the bill released just last year.

It is worrying that the current bill excludes critical services such as sexual and reproductive health services. Not having access to contraception and antenatal care services for certain population groups will have detrimental effects on their health and on SA’s health profile.

Lack of access to contraception will lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies. More women, unable to pay for safe abortions and not covered by NHI, would likely resort to backstreet abortions, running the risk of permanently damaging their reproductive organs, other injury, and even death.

The exclusion of maternal health services for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers will lead to an increase in infant and maternal mortality rates. South Africa has been working hard to reduce maternal mortality for years and it has been succeeding.

The infant and maternal mortality rate has declined from 189 per 100,000 live births in 2009 to 134 per 100,000 in 2016. The decline is due mainly to the expansion of the antiretroviral treatment programme for HIV-positive pregnant women. Since maternal mortality is a general indicator of the overall health of a population, any reverses in this area would be a major setback for the country.

Moreover, South Africa has the highest HIV prevalence in the world – with about 13% of the population living with HIV. The pandemic has an impact on everyone living in South Africa regardless of legal status. Migrants form part of the population that is heavily burdened by HIV. HIV is not a notifiable medical condition and its treatment would not fall under emergency medical services. This means under the current bill, HIV care would not be available to asylum seekers and undocumented migrants.

What happened to leaving no one behind in the HIV response as per the 90/90/90 targets?

It is in the best interest of South Africa to treat everyone who is living with the virus to prevent its spread. This is particularly important in settings where South Africans are in sexual relationships with foreign nationals who may not be documented. This limitation has the potential to delay the country’s progress against HIV in many aspects, including a possible rise in mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Children born to asylum seekers and undocumented migrants will be entitled to basic healthcare services as enshrined in section 28 of the Constitution. However, there is no definition of what the basic healthcare services package includes, so we do not know what these children are entitled to.

Further, the provision of these “basic healthcare services” is only effective once the child is born and excludes antenatal services while the asylum seeker or undocumented migrant mother is pregnant. This is contradictory, as the provision of antenatal services would serve as a means of detecting pregnancy abnormalities and reducing the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

While South Africa is joining the rest of the world in moving towards universal health coverage with the aim of providing better health services for all and leaving no one behind, the current NHI Bill will divert us from that goal.

Universal means everyone and that includes undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. MC

Mbatha is a researcher at SECTION27 and Mphahlele is a legal assistant at SECTION27.

Click to READ MORE ON UNHCR & REFUGEES

Read in Daily Maverick: Queues of foreign nationals at UN offices illustrate the desperation to leave South Africa

Read on GroundUp: “Our blood does not want to be spilled in the land of South Africa”

 

UPDATE:

Refugee leaders refuse help from civil society organisations

By  - 

Chances of resettlement are dismal, but leaders of group staying at church in centre of Cape Town persist with demand

Photo of people in a church

Refugees have taken shelter at the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town. Photo: Madison Yauger

There are growing concerns among those helping the refugees living in the Central Methodist Mission (CMM) on Greenmarket Square in the centre of Cape Town. The refugee leadership has a single demand: permanent resettlement outside of South Africa or the countries they have come from. But no one they are making the demand to has the power to implement it, not the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) nor the organisations trying to assist the refugees.

Canada is currently the leading country for refugee resettlement, according to the Pew Research Center. It resettled 28,000 refugees in 2018. The US resettled 23,000 in 2018, down from 33,000 in 2017, and 97,000 in 2016. Australia and the UK have also decreased the numbers of refugees they are resettling. Despite the number of refugees increasing, 20.4 million people worldwide according to UNHCR, resettlement opportunities are declining.

In the light of this, the refugees in the church are highly unlikely to be resettled outside South Africa. But the refugee leadership have turned away organisations offering anything but permanent resettlement.

Jean-Pierre Balous, one of the refugee leaders, told GroundUp, “We are very certain that a generous country will still want refugees. There is no way they can accept people from Syria, and not accept people who are in danger here in South Africa. We are putting each and every country, ward and organisation to the test.”

A collection of organisations, dubbed the solidarity committee, have been meeting to coordinate services for the group living in the church, but have now been shut out by Balous and other leaders. They received a message over the weekend stating the refugees would not be engaging further with the committee. The message accused the South African organisations of protecting their country and government, and refused all future negotiations.

While they wait for resettlement, the estimated 250 people living in the CMM are without consistent food and medical aid.

Reverend Alan Storey of the Mission released a statement online, thanking the NGOs for their kindness and addressing these concerns: “Together with the leadership of CMM I am very concerned that though CMM may have been a safe place last Wednesday from the police violence — it is increasingly becoming unsafe, mainly due to the health risk naturally associated with an over-crowded and under-ventilated space — not to mention our complete lack of adequate toilet and bathroom facilities.”

“The health risk is especially high among the young children, including many babies, as well as pregnant mothers. And of course fire risk is heightened by the overcrowding. For this reason, it has been clearly stated that no one is allowed to sleep in any of the upstairs areas of the sanctuary and there is strictly no cooking or smoking allowed inside the sanctuary at any time. It has also been repeatedly made clear that the doors of the sanctuary on the Longmarket side must remain open at all times.”

Balous responded to the health concerns, stating, “There is nothing coming that is medical aid. The people coming just want publicity. They don’t bring any medication. It’s just to come and speak to people and send them to the hospital, so there is no need for them to come here.”

“We know it’s very constrained inside. You cannot avoid sickness and disease when sickness wants to come to you.” He said they organise themselves to take children to clinics when necessary.

The other primary concern is access to food. Balous says the refugees did not have food resources provided when they lived outside the Waldorf Arcade for three weeks.

Gift of the Givers began preparing meals for the refugees following the highly publicised eviction from Waldorf Arcade last Wednesday, 30 October. However, following a Cape Talk interview with director Badr Kazii, where he said the resettlement demands of the protestors are unrealistic and acknowledged the opportunism of a “small vocal powerful group” of the refugees, the leadership has declined any further aid.

Balous said “Gift of the Givers food is prisoner’s food. The kind of press release their director gave, we are very doubtful about this food. He is not with us. He is turning against us. We are no longer going to use or take any food from Gift of the Givers.”

The refugees make contributions and buy and cook food to be shared collectively, Balous said. “We are surviving. We came from war countries. We couldn’t get food and we survived. This is nothing compared to that.”

A sense of uneasiness hovers in the space around Central Methodist Mission. Men acting as security stand at the front entrance with metal wands, scanning those who enter the church. Allegedly a man with a gun approached the church early Wednesday morning and was chased away.

“Safety is of the most concern,” said Balous. “If the police and law enforcement cannot protect us, who else will protect us?”

Rumours, likely false, have added to the tension surrounding this situation. Last week, claims surfaced that there were “seven missing children, five missing men, two dead”. There was for a short time three missing children from one family, confirmed by Legal Resource Centre attorney Sherylle Dass, but they were found at a relative’s house. No parents have come forward about missing their children.

Brigadier Novela Potelwa, spokesperson for the police, said: “This office can confirm that no murders have been registered in relation to last week’s police action at Waldorf Arcade in Cape Town.”

In the meantime, the organisations working with the refugees hope for continued dialogue.

Balous remains sceptical. “They’re trying to divide us and separate us. South Africans can pretend to love our children, but they’ve been denied birth certificates. We don’t have Muslims here. We don’t have Christians here. We have refugees, and no one is going to separate us.”

“We have been talking with Alan Storey and are very thankful for what he has done for refugees. We have been clear: whenever the church feels we are a burden to them, they can tell us and we are ready to live on the street.”

In his statement, Storey said, “As CMM we are also very clear that this is a temporary “safe place” and we hope and encourage all role players to seek a solution that will include vacating CMM. We are very aware that we are not the solution to this crisis. At best we offer a moment of calm in which we hope people can find one another to talk, listen and negotiate. As I said on Sunday, it takes courage to protest, but it also takes courage to negotiate. This is needed at all levels of this dispute. Refusing to talk and negotiate is never helpful.”

Organisations that have been trying to assist the refugees include the Legal Resources Centre, PASSOP, #UniteBehind, More Than Peace, people from the Department of Health, Women and Children at Concern, and One Billion Rising.