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Immigrants and Refugees

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Shattered Myths: The xenophobic violence in South Africa

On Thursday 22 May, Cape Town changed forever. The xenophobic violence that started 1,200 kilometres away in Gauteng spread to Du Noon township. On Friday the TAC offices began to get reports of violence on trains and Somali shops being looted. The details were scanty, but by Friday evening the consequences became visible even in the affluent city centre. About 150 people sought refuge outside Caledon Square, the city's main police station. Hundreds more gathered at the central train station so they could catch a train to Johannesburg in the morning and then leave the country.

Civic Centre Liveblog

One day later, 13 June, 17:20 About 100 of the Caledon Square Group continue to sit in. They are being supported by about 25 TAC members. The city and province met for hours yesterday and again today, yet there is still no decision on what to do. It's quite absurd. From Sunday morning, the the whole Caledon Square Group has absolutely nowhere to go. --Nathan Geffen

18:20 I have now left the Civic Centre, but will try to provide further updates if their are any development regarding the continuing occupation of the building. --EG

17:42 It is a scandal that the Province and City could not establish a joint task team until now. After four hours of meetings, they have not even been able to open a single hall or offer the comrades from the Caledon Square Group accommodation. Therefore, the Caledon Square Group will stay here and spend the night in the Civic Centre. A group of TAC comrades will stay with them. Hopefully we will be able to bring food and blankets for the comrades who stay. It is truly shameful that the City and Province cannot do better than this. --EG

17:19 This is what Smit says:

  • The City and Province have set up a joint task team — they are to have a workshop tomorrow to figure out a way forward;
  • The issues are complex and they ask our patience and to allow them time to address them;
  • On our other demands, they promise to address them tomorrow in the meetings of the new task team (his point is that the problem is a long-term one and there won't be any immediate solutions);
  • They ask us to leave the building and, while they won't force us out, they will lock the doors for the night. (Are they seriously threatening to incarcerate us in the building without arresting us?). --Eduard Grebe

Protest at Cape Town Civic Centre: TAC's Demands

  1. We demand that the all available places of shelter, including all those under control of both Province and City, are immediately opened. This includes Sea Point Civic Centre, Salt River Railway Institute, Woodstock Community Hall, Muizenberg Civic Centre, schools that are not in use and other government facilities.  
  2. We demand immediate closure of camps. The camps are a serious health risk, have inadequate shelter and prevent people from going to work and school. People should be moved, on a voluntary basis, to safe community places, including the places mentioned above.
  3. We support reintegration back into communities, people who want to be repatriated to their country of origin or resettled to a third country.
  4. We demand that the UNHCR come in and assist with reintegration, repatriation and resettlement as they are obligated and mandated to.
  5. We demand that the City and the Province establish a joint task team including the mayor, the premier and civil society to address the above demands.


Caledon Group's Memorandum to Mayor and Premier


The Caledon Square Group is concerned, deeply concerned, about the strategies put in place by the City of Cape Town over the decision made by the Cape High Court concerning the Premier of the Western Cape’s application to open and accommodate refugees temporarily in all civic centres around the city.  

Caledon Square refugees running out of shelter: Mayor's response is callous and racist

Caledon Square refugees running out of shelter: Mayor's response is callous and racist

  • Plea to Mayor Helen Zille and other state authorities: Open community centres for displaced people including:
    • Sea Point Civic Centre, Good Hope Centre,  Cape Town Civic Centre or similar for the 170 people making up the Caledon Square Group;
    • Woodstock Community Hall, Salt River Railway Institute or similar for over 100 people staying at the Tennyson Street Mosque;
    • Muizenberg Civic Centre or similar for the 50 people staying at the old TAC office at 34 Main Road.
  • Mayor is refusing to open community halls in white areas.


Court order forces City of Cape Town to open community centres

At about 1am in the morning on 10 June, the Cape High Court ordered the City of Cape Town to make available community halls to temporarily settle "displaced foreigners". The interdict was obtained by the Premier of the Western Cape. The TAC wrote a supporting affidavit.

Crisis at Soetwater Camp escalates: hunger strikes and attempted suicides

A tragedy is unfolding as people who fled xenophobic terror now face the uncaring machinery of the state. Most camps and shelters in which displaced people are staying fall below international humanitarian standards.

Herzlia school sends petition to mayor and premier asking for Caledon Square refugees to be sheltered

On the evening of 23 May, about 150 people displaced by xenophobic violence gathered outside Caledon Square, Cape Town's main police station. They have two demands: (1) they need shelter and protection in the CBD area (or surrounding suburbs) and (2) they want the United Nations to assist most of them to return to their home country or repatriate to a third country.

For four nights they stayed at Herzlia Weizmann School before funding was raised to shelter them for a week. As of Sunday evening 8 June it is not clear where the Caledon Square displaced people will beable to stay. Premier Rasool and Mayor Zille have not given any indication of how they will help them.

Joint appeal by civil society in South Africa to the UN & UNHCR

It is now more than 3 weeks since widespread xenophobic terror against foreign nationals has erupted in provinces across South Africa. To date, over 20,000 people in the Western Cape have been displaced, some are staying in community halls and local shelters, but many have been taken to refugee camps, some against their will. Across our countrymore than 50 000 people were displaced.

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