A clash broke out in the CBD this afternoon between police and refugees staging a sit-in outside the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town. Police arrived to remove the refugees, resulting in a battle that brought out stun grenades, tear gas and batons.
More than 300 foreign nationals and asylum seekers have been staging the sit-in at the Waldorf Building in Green Market Square for several weeks in protest against the treatment they have received from South Africans.
Many have alleged that they are being violently attacked and discriminated against in their communities. They are calling on authorities to move them out of the country to a place of safety, and refuse to leave until their demands are met.
On October 18, the Cape Town Magistrates Court granted a court order to evict the group. This has resulted in a stand-off today, with the foreign nationals protesting and resisting eviction. Videos and images of the police’s violent removal of the refugees have shocked social media users.
In numerous videos, asylum seekers can be heard chanting “We want to go home” while blockading the entrances of the Waldorf Building. According to IOL News, police used water guns to disperse the crowd.
We call Cape Town City the “Mother City”, what a joke! @CityofCT #Refugees rights are #HumanRights! Where is the leadership when daughter and mother are treated like this? Girl is thrown into a police van? @CyrilRamaphosa @AmnestySAfrica @Refugees @SABCNewsOnline pic.twitter.com/VMEmomq1bD
— Bob Mwiinga Munyati (@BMunyati) October 30, 2019
According to Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa, about 100 people have been arrested.
“About one hundred people have been arrested after they failed to heed the call to disperse,” she said. “The police are in the area to support the sheriff in executing a court order to evict about 300 refugees and asylum seekers who have been occupying the building in a sit-in protest for quite some time.”
“Unfortunately the attempts yielded no positive result. With a court order in place, the SAPS is obligated to support its execution by the sheriff. Law enforcement officials from the City of Cape Town and the police’s Public Order Police are henceforth on site,” she continues.
UNHCR spokesperson Hélène Caux says South Africa is currently hosting 268 000 refugees and asylum seekers from various parts of Africa. The organisation is reportedly working with police officials to provide protection for asylum seekers though identifying documents and access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities.
Picture: Twitter / Bob Mwiinga Munyati