South African business owners are calling for the eviction of refugees and asylum seekers from the capital city of Cape Town, as they obstruct tourist souvenir businesses located near a church. The refugees have vowed not to leave the church’s premises until they are resettled outside South Africa.
The country’s asylum system has been criticised for taking too long and South Africa has been blighted by xenophobic attacks.
Fearing for their safety, more than 500 refugees and asylum seekers are on the fifth month of living inside a church in South Africa’s coastal city of Cape Town. The majority of the refugees are living inside the central Methodist Church with others camping nearby.
They said that they have taken refuge in the church as they do not feel safe living in South Africa’s townships
Nadine Nkurikiye, who has been living in South Africa for 13 years, told the BBC that she had fled ethnic tensions in her native Burundi only to be raped in a country where she thought would be safe.
“What I’m asking is only for the UNHCR [UN refugee agency] to help us, to give us a place where we can be safe, where they can accept us like human beings, because South Africa doesn’t treat us like human beings,” said Ms Nkurikiye.
While many South Africans have been sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, local businesses and residents say they have had enough of their presence.
For four months they have had to deal with makeshift tents, people sleeping and urinating on pavements, they say.
The UNHCR has said it does not do group resettlement and that all applications are reviewed on a “case-by-case basis”.
The South African Human Rights Commission says the refugees have been misinformed by their leaders. (Source: BBC)