NEWS & ANALYSIS

Refugees: Cape Town considering approaching court for further relief

City is doing everything within its mandate to protect interests of residents and businesses

City considering approaching High Court on urgent basis for further relief

5 March 2020

The City of Cape Town is considering returning to the Western Cape High Court for further relief in respect of the refugee situation that has played out in the Central Business District for the past four months.

On Sunday, 1 March 2020, the City undertook an operation in Greenmarket Square, as provided for in the court order granted on 25 February 2020.

This operation was preceded by a seven-day verification process by the Department of Home Affairs of persons who had been residing in public spaces around the Central Methodist Church.

The Greenmarket Square operation was conducted with little resistance from the refugees as everyone involved in the operation understood the process and were given several opportunities for assistance in reintegrating into their communities. The City is in the process of assisting the refugees with reintegration where they have indicated their willingness.

However, some of the refugees who were removed from the site then invaded the grounds of the St. Mary’s Cathedral and were forcibly removed after the church laid charges of trespassing with the South African Police Service.

From there, the group moved to other public open spaces within the CBD – placing them in contempt of the court order.

On Monday 3 March 2020, the City’s enforcement agencies and the sheriff of the court sought to continue to enforce the court order. Initially there was resistance but the group then proceeded to the Cape Town Central Police Station, escorted by the City’s enforcement agencies, to be placed under arrest.

However, the SAPS declined to accept an intended charge laid by the sheriff, disputing that the order authorises the arrest of refugees who remain in contempt. SAPS has expressed the view that the High Court would have to be approached again for such relief.

In terms of clause 6 of the order, the City is compelled to apply for further relief from the Western Cape High Court in terms of clarification of the roles as stipulated in clause 3.

The City must now consider whether to approach the High Court urgently for further relief as it is entitled to do in terms of para 6 of the order, or whether to deal with this issue on the return date of 17 March.

In light of the significant complaints arising from residents and businesses in and around Albertus street, the City has, and will continue to do everything within its mandate to protect the interests of its residents and businesses by enforcing its by-laws and will hold those accountable who are in contempt of the court order.

Issued by JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, City of Cape Town, 5 Mach 2020