Home Affairs in talks with DRC, Burundi to house stranded Cape Town refugees

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A total of 638 people from 12 countries live at Paint City in Bellville.
A total of 638 people from 12 countries live at Paint City in Bellville.
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  • Refugees scattered across the Cape Town CBD since October 2019 were relocated to either the Bellville Paint City site or the Wingfield military base. They had fled their homes citing fears of xenophobia. 
  • In October, the Department of Home Affairs told the committee it was formulating an exit strategy, but the state of disaster has had a significant impact on its plan.
  • Several times the committee has requested that all spheres of government come up with a solution.

The Department of Home Affairs says it is in discussion with neighbouring countries over repatriation efforts to handle the refugee crisis arising from those people who occupied Greenmarket Square and the Central Methodist church.

Both groups were eventually moved to Paint City in Bellville and Wingfield in Kensington because of the lockdown.

On Friday, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs they are looking at a reintegration process or deportations as the final resolution.

"Regarding deportation, consultation between the department and the respective embassies of (the) Democratic Republic of the Congo and that of Burundi is being undertaken to finalise the repatriation of their respective nationals. Issuance of the required documentation will allow for the deportation process to be concluded," he said.

The minister said it has held engagements with the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) as well.

READ | 'We're hoping the court will be fair to us' - Cape Town refugees' wait to hear fate continues

"The UNHCR has engaged in various consultations at both these sites to address those who have indicated their intention to participate in a voluntary repatriation programme," Motsoaledi said.

Currently, there are two proposals from the Department of Home Affairs: either the refugees are reintegrated into their communities or they are repatriated.

Forced to intervene

The issue has forced the portfolio committee to intervene, with it requesting several times that all spheres of government come up with a solution.

In October, the Department of Home Affairs told the committee it was formulating an exit strategy, but the state of disaster has had a significant impact on its plan. Refugees who had been scattered across the Cape Town CBD since last October 2019 were relocated to either the Bellville Paint City site or the Wingfield military base. The move was due to Covid-19 regulations.

The City's mayoral committee member for community and health services, Zahid Badroodien, told Parliament: "It is important for all stakeholders in this process to have all relevant information pertaining to both sites. The information is required to plan the way forward and to determine the roles of each of the stakeholders," he said.


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