Relocation of refugees to Wingfield ‘recipe for disaster’

2020-04-14 06:00
Refugees who were living inside the Central Methodist Church in the CBD are now at the Wingfield Military site in Maitland. PHOTO: facebook

Refugees who were living inside the Central Methodist Church in the CBD are now at the Wingfield Military site in Maitland. PHOTO: facebook

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Kensington and Maitland residents fear that the relocation of refugees from streets in the Central Business District (CBD) to the Wingfield Military site will not be temporary as the City of Cape Town has said.

The large group of refugees who were living inside the Central Methodist Mission Church in Greenmarket Square are now being housed in huge tents erected on an area opposite Maitland Cemetery in Voortrekker Road.

Before the relocation, there was widespread confusion as to who would be sheltered at Wingfield.

Leslie Swartz, chair of the Kensington Factreton Residents and Ratepayers Association (KFRRA), says when they met with mayor Dan Plato on Saturday 4 April they were told that homeless people will be placed there.

“By Monday 6 April, we were still not sure what was going to happen.”

Swartz adds that the community is not happy with the way the city handled the relocation process.

“For the past 50 years, there has been no affordable housing development in the area which has resulted in the creation of informal settlements and backyard dwellers. This relocation will add to an already burdened and frustrated group of people, and is a recipe for disaster.”

Plato says: “The Wingfield site was identified by public works minister Patricia De Lille. It is owned by her department and she instructed that it be used by the City for the housing of the non-nationals in our City.

“We immediately took occupation of that site for the purposes of preparing it for the erection of tents and basic services for this purpose.”

In Plato’s opinion, a decision by police to remove refugees from the Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square on Thursday 2 April to the Paint City site in Bellville was “premature as that was not what was agreed upon”.

“We have procured tents, water tankers, ablution facilities, and health and safety supplies and equipment to ensure the Wingfield site is compliant with the regulations now in force,” says Plato.

Swartz says the community needs clarity on what the plans are for after the lockdown.

“The City in the past has created ‘temporary sites’ like Blikkiesdorp and that became the endpoint with no further plans in place. We wish to avoid a repeat of this,” explains Swartz.

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