Cape Town to begin 'enforcement operations' against Greenmarket Square refugees

Providing temporary shelter "not on the cards" because City feared it would become permanent

City of Cape Town to begin 'enforcement operations' against Greenmarket Square refugees

9 January 2020

The City of Cape Town will soon begin "enforcement operations" against the group of refugees camping outside the Central Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square, says Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith.

This comes after two meetings this week with representatives for the refugees, police, home affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), GroundUp reported.

The refugees have been protesting for months – initially outside the UNHCR offices in St George's Mall, before they were forcefully removed in a chaotic scene on October 30, 2019.

They have been demanding to be resettled in another country. Since then, most of the families have been living inside and outside the church.

The meeting on Wednesday was held to address the demands refugees put forward, which included the provision of a safe temporary shelter, and that the UNHCR and Department of Home Affairs process their documents.

After the closed meeting at Cape Town Central Station, GroundUp spoke to Aline Bukuru, the founder of Women and Children at Concern and refugee leader.

Bukuru said she was "hopeful" that the City would meet their demands for a temporary shelter, adding that they "were working together".

But Smith painted a different picture, accusing leaders of the refugee group of spreading misinformation.

He said that providing a temporary shelter was "not on the cards" because the City feared it would become permanent. Smith added that the City was planning to make space available.

This was so that the families could be interviewed and screened individually by home affairs officials and the UNHCR, but "not for any kind of bulk relocation" to other countries.

Smith said having refugees living outside the church in Greenmarket Square was "simply unsustainable" and that it was up to police and Metro Police to intervene.

The UNHCR and home affairs offices could not be reached for comment by time of publication.