Cape Town refugee

Image via Twitter: Ben Podnar

Watch: Refugees detained in armoured vehicles following Cape Town protests

Horrific scenes of mothers holding onto their children during heavy-handed arrests.

Cape Town refugee

Image via Twitter: Ben Podnar

A heavy police presence has been felt outside the offices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town, where refugees have been camping on-site for a weeks-long peaceful sit-in protest over their safety concerns in South Africa.

On Wednesday, police surrounded the vicinity and forcefully removed protestors with water cannons and stun grenades.

Police forcefully remove refugee families from the UNHCR site

It is reported that police have been called in to evict hundreds of refugees from the area following a Sheriff’s court order. The detained refugees were carried into armoured vehicles, and there were horrific scenes of mothers holding on to their children during the removals.

Chaos has continued to grip the CBD, with Public Order Police (POP), South African Police Services, and Cape Town law enforcement called-in to “clear the street”. Multiple police vehicles are parked around the site in the Cape Town and are still attempting to quell the dissidence.

Asylum seekers camped on-site for weeks as they fear for their lives

The refugees have been camping outside the UN refugee agency offices demanding help to leave South Africa and have stated that they refuse to leave the official site until their pleas are heard, as they fear for their lives.

The asylum seekers essentially want to be relocated to other countries such as Canada, the United States of America, New Zealand and Australia because they face xenophobic violence in South Afric. The number of peaceful protesters have been growing daily, with hundreds of people, including children, being blamed for ‘disrupting traffic’ in the area.

Refugees from Somalia, Bangladesh, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan want the agency to urgently relocate them. The protesting refugees and asylum seekers have complained that they have not bathed in weeks. Most are unemployed while their children are not in school.

Refugees injured and displaced

Many refugees have been injured, wounded and killed as a result of the recent wave of xenophobic attacks in September. On the streets of Cape Town, police brutality now threatens the health and safety of displaced refugees.

In a recent Ground Up interview, Asad Khan, a refugee originally from Bangladesh, who had been at the sit-in for a week, detailed his horrifying interaction with xenophic attacks:

“My life is in danger. I am here to demand that UNHCR move me to another country. I lost everything when they attacked me and robbed my spaza shop. So I am not in a hurry to leave the protest. Before they attacked me, they shouted, ‘who gave you the authority to stay here?’.

It’s two years now since my asylum expired, I can’t go to renew it at Home Affairs in Pretoria without money; I was turned away several times because I cannot afford to pay for a bribe. I can’t look for a job without a document.”

Asad Khan