Image via Twitter: jakabongo

Cape Town refugees: Motsoaledi warns City to stop hiding behind DHA

The minister says that the Department of Home Affairs will process the refugees in due time.


Image via Twitter: jakabongo

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has criticised the City of Cape Town for “deflecting responsibility” when dealing with the refugee group occupying the Central Methodist Mission Church in Greenmarket Square. 

Motsoaledi was responding to claims made by the City that it would have to delay its removal of the group from the arts around the church – as per an order granted by the Cape Town high court on Monday – to allow Home Affairs to process the refugees. 

The City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security said on Monday that law enforcement would have to wait seven days before they will be allowed to apply city bylaws. 

Speaking to Cape Talk, he said that the City needed to simply go about their own business and implement its bylaws. 

“It’s an issue of people breaching bylaws by staying in a place where they are not supposed to. It is a City issue, not an issue for Home Affairs.

“I have asked in the past for municipalities not to hide behind Home Affairs.” 

He said that the City were well within their rights at this juncture of the refugee saga to implement bylaws and remove the group, and said that his department would go about their responsibility as and when it is required.

“Our processing does not affect the removal of the people there. Our processing is to check much later whether people are documented or not.” 

“The City must check those people who are destitute. Whether Home Affairs checks now or not, they still have to move in.”

Motsoaledi had strong words about the refugee group, who he said had been “trampling” on the local economy. 

“The vulnerability of being a migrant does not give you the right to trample a country. Especially if that country is a democratic state like SA.”

Unreasonable demands

He said that the drawn-out saga of negotiating with the refugees was never likely to bear fruit since their demands have remained “unreasonable”. 

The group had demanded that the UNHRC provide them safe passage to a country free of xenophobia where they would be protected. 

None of the compromised proposals suggested by the UNHRC, Home Affairs, City of Cape Town or Gift of the Givers over the last five months were accepted by controversial leaders JP Balous and Papy Sukami.

“We have been shouting at the top of our voice that [the refugee group’s] demands are unreasonable. Every time I say this, I am branded as xenophobic.

“They want to go to another country in a group like that – it is impossible. The UNHRC have said so, I have said so.”

Motsoaledi added that the aforementioned leaders had led the group astray, accusing them of having lied to the hundreds of refugees who had followed them to the Cape Town CBD in an attempt to further their own agendas.

“As much as people are protesting under the cloak of being a vulnerable person, we know that the leaders are malicious,” he said.

“They are not who they claim to be. They have been using women and children as weapons. The judge has seen through them and ruled in terms of fact, not emotion.” 

Refugees in no rush to leave 

The atmosphere around Greenmarket Square was consistent with the “new normal” that Capetonians have come to expect since the occupation. 

Tourists fluttered amid the market stalls with a stong police presence just metres away as refugees were urged to pack up their belongings. 

The group were in no hurry to go though, with Balous telling Times Live that they will be in the church should anyone need them.