‘When people don’t have work and are hungry, they blame foreigners’

A dilapidated delivery container exterior a tent that gives momentary shelter to refugees and asylum seekers at Paint City in Bellville, Cape Town, has been the shelter’s administrative constructing since April 2020. 

Inside, fly paper hangs from the roof, peppered with contemporary catches. A small fan does little to alleviate the stifling warmth.

From behind his desk, Hafiz Mohammad, a spokesperson for the Paint City shelter, says the refugees don’t need to stay in South Africa. “We do not feel safe. A lot of our brothers and sisters already died because of xenophobia.” 

Two momentary shelters — Paint City and Wingfield in Maitland, Cape Town — had been erected in 2020 through the onerous lockdown below the Covid-19 Disaster Management Act. This was after the City of Cape Town enforced its bylaws to finish a six-month protest by refugees and asylum seekers. Xenophobic assaults and the shortcoming to finalise authorized papers led to the protracted protest, which began on 8 October 2019.

Most folks on the Wingfield website both moved again to the neighbourhoods the place they’d lived or had been repatriated to their nation of origin by means of programmes the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) facilitated. 

Women do their washing round the one water supply on the refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

The folks remaining at Paint City need to relocate to international locations apart from their nation of origin, and need the UNHCR to facilitate the transfer. 

The solely entry into the fenced campsite is thru a heavy metal gate that’s guarded day and evening. Inside, greater than 500 persons are residing off donations from people and the nonprofit organisation, Gift of the Givers. They get meals twice a day — breakfast at 9am and supper at 7pm.

Since the Mail & Guardian’s go to to the camp in May 2021, the numbers have solely barely decreased — from 528 to 519 — the results of two households leaving. Of the 519 folks, 200 are kids. 

Last 12 months, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi stated the campsite can be closed on 30 April 2021. But that didn’t occur. Part of the fence was eliminated, and the cut-off date was prolonged. Today, the tent nonetheless offers momentary shelter, and transportable bathrooms are nonetheless in place, however in February, the bathe amenities had been eliminated

Women do their washing round the one water supply on the refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

Caroline Hajira, a Tanzanian refugee and mom to 9 kids, had beforehand advised the M&G that she feared for her kids’s security, and that residing circumstances on the shelter weren’t beneficial for girls and youngsters. 

Since then, nothing has modified, she stated, including: “All foreigners are suffering in South Africa.” 

A refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Albert Luninga, joined the dialogue, saying that “as a refugee, you don’t have any rights in the country. We see our children’s future destroyed.”

Mohammad believes the South African authorities is not going to assist. “[They] are not going to do anything, that is the reality. But we have the right to ask the UNHCR. The refugee and asylum seeker is their duty, if they do not do that, we can complain to those who are superior [to them].”

Massoud Ndunduye prepares to take a bathe inside a conveyable bathroom a month after the showers had been taken away from the refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

Luninga says the UNHCR “has a mandate” to help. 

Mohammad says Paint City’s residents have contacted the UNHCR and the division of dwelling affairs, however acquired no responses. The final assembly between residents and residential affairs was in May 2021, and though they stayed involved with the UNHCR, their communication additionally pale on the finish of final 12 months. 

Mohammad misplaced his small enterprise throughout violent protests in Kimberley in 2016. He says the refugees are scared that the “Operation Dudula” protests in Gauteng will unfold to the Western Cape. 

“We do not want to stay in South Africa. We do not feel safe. Foreigners are blamed for everything. When people don’t have work, they blame foreigners, when people are hungry, they blame foreigners. If people have a problem, they blame foreigners.”

The M&G phoned and despatched a number of emails and messages to dwelling affairs and minister Motsoaledi’s workplace. No responses had been forthcoming. 

The UNHCR stated it now not “directly engaged” with the refugees and asylum seekers at Paint City after the tip of the reintegration mission it led in July 2021. 

Dutamo Bufebo inside the massive tent the place he sleeps on the ground on the refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

A verification course of in October and November 2020 confirmed that most individuals residing in Paint City and Wingfield had been both asylum seekers whose claims had been in a backlog on the dwelling affairs division or had been undocumented. 

“Those who were in the asylum process were issued notices of appeal, but the group has repeated its request for resettlement and chose not to engage any further with the asylum process,” stated the UNHCR’s Kiran Kaur. 

In March 2020, the Women and Children Concern organisation wrote to the UNHCR requesting the resettlement of asylum seekers and refugees out of the country due to xenophobic assaults in South Africa.

But Kaur stated that “resettlement to a third country is a very limited option for refugees worldwide, which usually covers less than 1% of the global refugee population”.

“To protect the integrity of the resettlement programme, there will be no group resettlement or preferential treatment to individuals from this group [at Paint City].” 

Francine Nduyimana sits in entrance of her small shelter contained in the tent of the rxefugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

The UNHCR says individuals who search asylum or refugee standing are topic to the asylum procedures within the nation. 

South Africa is a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Last week, Human Rights Watch scrutinised the style during which the nation handles refugees and asylum seekers.

The human rights advocacy group positioned South Africa on its record of states abusing refugees and asylum seekers and appealed to the African Union to “uphold their commitments under regional and international law” to guard refugees and asylum seekers. 

“In several states, authorities have arbitrarily detained or abused asylum seekers and refugees, including in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, South Africa, and Tanzania,” it stated.

March 11 2022 – Nursery faculty trainer Alice Kitenza with a bunch of younger kids on the Refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

James Chapman, authorized adviser and head of advocacy on the refugee Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town, says of migrant legal guidelines that South Africa is by and enormous progressive in comparison with different international locations. The legal guidelines embody the Refugees Act 130 of 1998 and rules learn with the Immigration Act, the Constitution and different relevant laws.

But, he says, amendments to the Refugee Act that got here into power on 1 January 2020 “substantially limit access to and enjoyment of protection offered prior to the amendments”.

Motsoaledi stated the federal government was reviewing the Refugee Act, the Citizenship Act and the Immigration Act, “to align them and simplify them for everyone”.

“We recognise that some of our laws were enacted in a period where things were very different to how they are now … South Africa does not have a problem with people who are legally seeking protection. The challenge is with those who are here illegally,” he stated at a bilateral assembly between the federal government and the UNHCR. 

Chapman says there are gaps between laws and day-to-day apply. The Refugees Act that theoretically offers purposes for and entry to asylum, however there are 1000’s, “if not hundreds of thousands” of people who find themselves unable to get into the division’s refugee reception workplaces.

And, says Chapman, the usual of refugee standing dedication is “fairly poor in South Africa”, regardless of the progressive laws. 

“Poor refugee status determination along with a degree of corruption in the system results in individuals, who in terms of the law fall under the refugee definition and should be recognised as refugees, not being recognised as refugees and consequently they are not afforded the corresponding protection and rights.”

A ladies feeds a younger baby on the Refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

Back behind Paint City’s metal gate the refugees stay unsure of their future. 

“Right now we actually don’t know what is going to happen,” says Mohammad. He believes South Africa doesn’t need the refugees to remain, however the nation can be not keen to permit them to depart. 

In addition to laws that may jeopardise refugees and asylum seekers’ hopes for a safer and economically steady atmosphere, corrupt officers exploit susceptible foreigners. 

In alternate for everlasting residency in South Africa, you’ll have to pay about R70 000 to R80 000, relying in your “connections”, says the holder of an asylum visa who spoke on situation of anonymity.

Hafiz Mohammed acts as spokesperson for the Refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

The 32-year-old stated for foreigners to acquire authorized paperwork they needed to get entangled in doubtful offers with authorities officers. Born in Ethiopia, he has been residing and dealing in South Africa since 2008. His visa must be renewed each 4 years and he is aware of that to resume it, he should have money to pay upfront for providers that must be free. 

If you don’t pay, your software “will just get lost” and you’ll have to reapply, he says. 

Payments range relying on the official providing “help” on the day. If you might be fortunate you solely must pay R1 000 or R2 000, however some folks pay as much as R11 000 to resume their refugee or asylum visa. 

The man counts himself lucky as a result of many foreigners have three- or six-month visas and must pay extra often to resume their authorized standing. 

Refugee camp on the Belville taxi rank, Cape Town. Photo by David Harrison

But he can not afford everlasting residency. According to the legislation, one can apply for South African citizenship after residing within the nation for a minimum of 5 years, which the Ethiopian asylum visa holder was eligible for eight years in the past. 

He says that to have an software reviewed and processed may price between R70 000 and R80 000. 

Cameras put in place at dwelling affair workplaces to battle corruption made bribes tougher, however not inconceivable, he stated. Officials inform candidates to position the cash in garbage bins or slip it between the pages of a e book.

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