Government urges refugees at UNHCR offices in Pretoria to obey court order to vacate premises

Refugees camped outside of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Pretoria.  (Alex Mitchley, News24)
Refugees camped outside of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Pretoria. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

The government has urged refugees occupying the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) offices in Pretoria on Thursday to abide by the court order which has given them three days to vacate and disperse.

The order was granted on Wednesday by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria and on Thursday, the Sherriff of the High Court read out the order and pinned it to the gates.

In the event that they do not leave, a joint operation between the police, home affairs officials and Tshwane Metro will move in to ascertain the refugees' status and remove them. 

Hundreds are asking to be resettled in another country as they fear xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

'Constitutional democracy'

In a statement issued by the Government Communication and information System (GCIS) on Thursday, the government said it "notes the ruling".

Broadly, the statement repeats the contents of the court order.

"South Africa is a constitutional democracy and a signatory to international instruments, which form part of public international law, and these international instruments have been incorporated into our domestic law by the Refugees Act,"

Gauteng DA leader John Moodey also weighed in on the impasse, saying: "The SA Police Service must act immediately to ensure that law and order is maintained."

By Thursday afternoon, police management had been engaging with refugees to find an amicable solution that would see them leaving the property peacefully, News24 reported.

In a statement, the UNHCR called for the peaceful resolution of the protest.

"The UNHCR is engaged in a dialogue with the protesters, urging them to avoid any act of violence, vacate the premises and contribute to finding viable solutions," its spokesperson, Helene Caux, said. 

"The UNHCR remains committed to working together with the government to find a peaceful resolution of the situation through continued constructive dialogue with the protesters."

Compiled by Kamva Somdyala

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