Refugees charged with trespassing may face additional public violence charges

2019-11-18 21:38
A refugee argues with a police officer at the UNHCR offices in Pretoria. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

A refugee argues with a police officer at the UNHCR offices in Pretoria. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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More than 180 refugees, who have been charged with trespassing, may also face an additional charge of public violence following their removal from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) offices in Pretoria. 

The group of 189 accused were split into six groups and made their first appearances in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Monday. 

All the accused have been charged with trespassing after they allegedly forced their way onto the UN property on November 14. 

READ: Police called in as refugees jump UNHCR walls in Pretoria

Only one of the accused opted for legal aid and informed the court he would be applying for bail. 

The 188 other accused, including one woman, told the court they would be conducting their own defence and would not be applying for bail at this stage.

While most of the groups stood quietly in the dock, the first group of 33 caused havoc as they were taken to the holding cells, chanting "no more South Africa". 

Prosecutor Sipho Letsoalo told the court that further investigations were being conducted and an additional charge of public violence might be added to the charge sheet.

He said all the accused would be held at Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria. 

On Friday morning, the police were met with violent resistance as they removed hundreds of refugees from the UN refugee agency's premises in Pretoria. 

WATCH | Police start removing refugees from UNHCR building in Pretoria

On Saturday, Gauteng police said 24 police officers were injured during the operation as many of the refugees resisted arrest and fought back. 

They threw rocks, cans of food, water buckets and other items at police officers, while others sat on the ground refusing to leave peacefully. 

Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters confirmed that six officers were hospitalised with serious injuries but were discharged the same day after receiving medical treatment.

Over 500 refugees had been camping in front of the UNHCR's offices since the beginning of October, staging a sit-in, asking that they be resettled in another country due to fears of xenophobic attacks. 

ALSO READ: 'Let them bring coffins' - Refugees camping outside UNHCR offices in Pretoria will not go willingly

They moved onto the UNHCR's premises to avoid a Gauteng High Court order that was handed down in Pretoria last Wednesday. The order, which was served by the Sheriff of the High Court on Thursday, gave the refugees three days to vacate the area.

A case of trespassing was opened at Brooklyn police station which led to the removal and arrest of over 180 men.

A total of 224 women, 169 children and seven men are currently being accommodated at the Lindela Repatriation Centre pending a verification process by the Department of Home Affairs.

The cases were postponed to November 27 and December 4, while the one accused who is applying for bail will reappear on November 21.

Read more on:    unhcr  |  pretoria  |  protests  |  refugees
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