'We're hoping the court will be fair to us' - Cape Town refugees

Refugees and asylum seekers’ wait to hear fate continues

'We're hoping the court will be fair to us' - Cape Town refugees' wait to hear fate continues

22 January 2020

The court case between the City of Cape Town and the refugees and asylum seekers living in the Central Methodist Mission Church on Greenmarket Square has been postponed to next week owing to a lack of documentation compiled for the court.

The case was meant to be heard on Wednesday, having been last heard on December 13. But it has since been postponed to January 28.

According to Crispin Mongwe, a spokesperson for the refugees and asylum seekers, the delay is because documentation hasn't been filed with the court.

At the case's previous hearing, Jean-Pierre Balous represented the refugees and asylum seekers. There has since been a rift in the group, with many questioning his motives. He was arrested on New Year's Day on eight charges of assault, including five of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

He has since been granted bail, but is not allowed to set foot in Cape Town's central business district, where Greenmarket Square is situated.

The leader of the group opposing Balous, PapiSukami, is also out on bail after his arrest on two robbery charges.

Mongwe said they had already appointed a committee to represent them in the court case.

The City wants an order prohibiting the sit-in and the flouting of health and safety by-laws, alleging that the group was affecting business in the area.

It also alleged that people had urinated and defecated in the streets, cooked over open fires, washed clothes and bathed around the church area, contributing to fire risks.

"All of us is hoping for the court to be fair to us," said Mongwe.

A common complaint is the lack of ablution facilities, with men concerned about the effect of this on their wives and children.

The more than 600 foreign nationals sought refuge in the church after police forcefully dispersed a sit-in protest near the offices of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in October.

They want the UNHCR to remove them from South Africa because of xenophobic attacks last year.

Several of the refugees or asylum seekers who spoke to News24 expressed frustration with the UNHCR's perceived lack of assistance.