Reverend concerned by fallout between the leaders of Greenmarket Square refugees

2020-01-10 18:27
Hundreds of refugees have been living inside and outside the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town for months. (Madison Yauger, GroundUp)

Hundreds of refugees have been living inside and outside the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town for months. (Madison Yauger, GroundUp)

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The reverend who runs the Central Methodist Mission on Cape Town's Greenmarket Square has expressed concern about the "fallout between the refugee leadership" at the church.

Reverend Alan Storey said, in a statement published on Friday, this had caused a "volatile" and "hostile" environment in the church.

Services this Sunday have been moved to Observatory's Methodist Church.

Hundreds of refugees have been staying inside and outside the church in the city centre for months.

Storey wrote violence had broken out on December 29 following a split between two refugee leaders. This forced the police to intervene.

GroundUp has learned the leaders are Papy Sukami and Jean-Pierre Balous.

Both have since been arrested: Sukami for robbery and Balous for assault. Sukami was released on bail on Thursday, while Balous appeared in court on Friday. He was granted R2 000 bail on condition that he not enter the CBD without permission.

"As a church, we cannot provide sanctuary to violent groups. Nor are we equipped to deal with them. It is within this context that, as a church, we will now pursue other avenues to address the situation," said Storey.

The refugees have been protesting for months - previously outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) offices in St George's Mall - before they were forcefully removed in a chaotic scene on October 30.

They have been demanding to be resettled, as a group, in another country, a demand that nearly all parties, who have attempted to assist the refugees, have described as unrealistic. Since then, most of the families have been living inside and outside the church.

Storey cited the "ongoing health and safety risks within the overcrowded sanctuary" and the "threat of violence between the groups" as reasons for moving Sunday's service.

He said the church had struggled to take steps to prevent fires and the spread of disease. The refugees have been asked to "vacate the sanctuary numerous times".

This week, the refugees, led by Aline Bukuru, the founder of Women and Children at Concern, met with the UNHCR, Department of Home Affairs and City of Cape Town to organise a safe temporary shelter, where the UNHCR and department could interview and screen them on an individual basis.

However, JP Smith, the mayco member for safety and security for the City, told GroundUp a temporary shelter was "not on the cards".

Read more on:    cape town  |  refugees
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