Police move in once again to move refugees from a Cape Town park

Law enforcement officers linked arms to stop group from walking to police station ‘to get water’

Police move in once again to move refugees from a Cape Town park

2 March 2020

"They are treating us like animals," said Ali Musa, a refugee from Somalia, as Cape Town's Law Enforcement unit prepared to once again move a group of refugees, this time those who slept in a park on Sunday.

They moved there after the City of Cape Town effected a court order on Sunday to enforce by-laws which prevent people from sleeping on pavements, cooking and washing in public, on the perimeter of the Central Methodist Mission church.

The refugees moved from outside the Methodist church on Greenmarket Square to St Mary's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt, opposite Parliament.

Authorities then swiftly moved them from there on Sunday afternoon and they slept in a park opposite Constitution Street near the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

The number of people inside the Methodist church seemed to have swelled by Monday morning.

The inside of the church is out of bounds in terms of the court order on 17 February which confirms the City's right to enforce its by-laws after local businesses complained about a sharp drop in trade due to unsanitary conditions.

Aline Bukuru told News24 inside the church: "Where is Unicef? Where is the UNHCR?"

She said the agencies, which specialise in children and refugees, were absent and were not helping them.

Bags were stacked around the walls on the inside of the church and children batted a balloon to each other, as they started another day in limbo since being removed from their Waldorf Arcade sit-in in October 2019.

Bukuru said that Methodist Reverend Alan Storey was the only person helping them.

Asylum seeker KambwaMukeba from the Democratic Republic of Congo suggested to the group in the park on Monday morning that they all walk from the park to Cape Town Central police station where they will at least get water.

The group started walking down Constitution Street but a wall of Law Enforcement officers linked arms and stopped them, so they retreated back to the park.

People prayed, gave their children pieces of fruit to eat and walked around asking where they could find a tap for water.

Comment was not immediately available from the Department of Home Affairs on what will happen after the group visited a makeshift site in Salt River to register their needs.

There, they filled in forms and gave fingerprints but they say they don't know what will happen now.

Refugees initially held sit-ins in Cape Town and Pretoria to ask to be relocated to another country because they fear xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The government and the UNHCR have made it clear this was not possible for a group, but that individuals can apply.

On Monday morning, in the heat, some people asked to be taken to their country of origin rather than remain in South Africa.

The situation remained tense.