UNHCR 'cannot' relocate foreign nationals demanding to leave SA — report

Hundreds of refugees camped outside the UNHCR in Cape Town demanding to be resettled outside SA because they do not feel safe in the country.
Hundreds of refugees camped outside the UNHCR in Cape Town demanding to be resettled outside SA because they do not feel safe in the country.
Image: Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp.

Evacuation of foreign nationals demanding to leave SA is “not an option on the table”, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in SA.

The UNHCR said it had reached an impasse with those wishing to leave the country, the SABC reported on Sunday.

Police arrested scores of refugees and asylum seekers last week who were involved in a sit-in protest outside the UNHCR offices in Cape Town. They were demanding the UN agency move them to a different country, for fear of xenophobic violence in SA.

Hundreds of refugees were engaged in a similar protest outside the UNHCR office in Brooklyn, Pretoria.

The SABC quoted UNHCR regional director Valentin Tapsoba as saying that relocation, resettlement or evacuation was “not an option that is now on the table”.

“We have 268 000 refugees and asylum seekers in SA… where are we going to take 268,000 people to? Where? To which country?”

Tapsoba said the agency, with the help of government and other stakeholders, may be in a position to help those affected get decent housing. “But they don’t want to hear about it, what they want is just to be relocated … and we cannot do that.”


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