KZN family who helped refugees returns home after 6 months in hiding

2016-11-28 15:27
Andrew Wartnaby (Daily Sun)

Andrew Wartnaby (Daily Sun)

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Durban – A KwaZulu-Natal family who had to flee their home and go into hiding, after a group of refugees they tried to help turned on them, are finally back and settled on their farm.

Rae Wartnaby, her husband Andrew and their 11 children finally returned home after six months in hiding.

"It is really good to be home," Rae told News24 on Monday morning.

In July last year, the family opened their 20-hectare plot Hope Farm in Cato Ridge to more than 100 refugees who had been displaced during xenophobic attacks in the province.

The refugees, mostly families from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, were left homeless after the eThekwini municipality closed down a camp for displaced foreigners in Chatsworth.

The Wartnaby's provided their guests with food, shelter and even education for their young children.

Safe house

But things took a turn for the worse when the refugees turned on the family, demanding that they be moved to a third country, something that the family could not assist with.

The family left their farm and sought refuge at a safe house after the relationship with their guests turned sour.

The Wartnaby's turned to the courts to evict the refugees from their property.

Rae told News24 her family had moved back home about two months ago.

"Up until a month ago there was still one refugee that was still living in the area, but he eventually left, so we feel safe again. I am very happy to have my life back again."

She said she would take some time to reflect on the year and map out a new beginning for her family.

"We don't have any terrible or negative feelings towards the refugees. We wanted to help, but we just could not give them what they wanted. We just did not understand each other and things got complicated. We got caught in the middle of the situation."

Lesson learnt

Despite everything that has happened to the family, Rae said they had no regrets and thanked everyone who assisted them and the refugees.

She said some of the refugees had called to thank her family for trying to assist them in their time of need.

"It is unfortunate that the situation turned for the worst, but we certainly did not operate in a vacuum, there were so many people that assisted us."

She said she had learnt a great deal from the situation.

"Next time, before I help someone, I will think twice before getting involved. I hope that does not make us cynical, but the problem here is that we had a humanitarian approach and the refugees had a political agenda.

"I think next time I will not get involved if the matter is political. It was good in the beginning and very bad at the end, but that's how life can be sometimes," Rae said. 

Read more on:    durban  |  refugees

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