Refugees continue protest in South Africa’s capital

PRETORIA

As many as 300 refugees and asylum seekers continued their protest in South Africa’s capital Pretoria for the third week, calling on the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to relocate them to another country.

“We don’t need to stay here in South Africa anymore. We want the UNHCR to give us protection and relocate us to another country. Here we are being killed,” Pastor Prince Mpanga Yomba, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), told Anadolu Agency.

Earlier on Wednesday, police clashed in Cape Town with about 300 other refugees, who had also camped outside the UNCHR offices, demanding relocation from South Africa.

“We are not shaken. We shall continue with our protest. We have suffered enough in this country as refugees. We have got no rights. We are tired. Enough is enough. UNHCR must listen to our plea,” said Yomba, who took refuge in South Africa seven years ago.

He said he fled his country as a result of civil war hoping to get peace in South Africa, adding but he became one of the victims of the recent anti-immigrant attacks in the country.

Last month, angry mobs looted foreign-owned stores, set their cars on fire and hunted for them on the streets of Johannesburg and parts of Pretoria. At least 12 lives were lost during the skirmishes, but majority of the deceased were said to be South Africans.

“We can’t go back to our communities where we had lived alongside South African neighbors, because they threatened to kill us and harm our children during the violence,” said another refugee, who introduced herself as Lillian.

She said South Africa was no more a safe country for refugees and they really need the UNHCR to find a solution for them. “We are tired. We have been here for a long time. It’s more than three weeks now,” she said.

Seeking protection

When Anadolu Agency visited the makeshift camp on Wednesday afternoon, refugees and asylum seekers were seen cooking their meals or washing clothes on the busy Pretoria roadside.

Some of their clothes and blankets were hanging on the fences of the UN Refugee office. Protesters at the sit-in include women and children.

“Our lives are in danger. We are not secure in this country. We are camping here to ask the UNHCR to give us protection,” Maliyamungu Ngenge, a refugee rights activist and one of the protest leaders, told Anadolu Agency.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR office in South Africa said in a statement it was aware of the concerns raised by refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

“We are working with authorities and partners to address the issues, and improve the situation of all refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa,” the agency said last week.

The UNHCR also dismissed claims that the body would evacuate refugees and resettle them in other countries.

“Group resettlement or evacuation out of South Africa is not being organized by UNHCR and is not being considered as a solution,” the statement said.

The refugee agency said resettlement was only available for a very small number of refugees which followed very strict criteria. 
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