The Times/Sapa, 2 June 2008
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The temporary shelters to accommodate displaced foreign nationals are "unprepared and insecure", Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) said on Monday. "After living in unacceptable conditions for nearly three weeks, the displaced foreigners are now being moved by South African government without proper access to information about their rights and options, to sites that are unprepared and insecure," the international medical humanitarian organisation said in a statement. The organisation said the conditions of shelter, water and sanitation made the sites unsuitable for receiving displaced people. MSF criticised government’s relocation plan after three weeks since the xenophobic attacks, that saw tens of thousands displaced and more than 60 people killed. "Preparation of sites for relocation started on Saturday, three weeks after the first eruption of violence in Johannesburg - despite the concerns expressed by humanitarian actors about the conditions of the site," the statement said. "Our patients have already been traumatised by the violence and the conditions of displacement. They say they are treated like animals," MSF health practitioner Bianca Tolboom said. MSF expressed its concern about one of the sites they described as a "dusty old mine dump". "This site (City Deep) in particular will be harmful to people’s health. Especially those suffering from respiratory infections, the most common diagnosis among our patients," said Rachel Cohen, head of MSF South Africa. She said there were few latrines, tents were too close together, and sharp drops made the grounds unsafe for children. Since the start of the xenophobic attacks three weeks back, MSF mobile teams have treated 2500 patients, distributed blankets, hygiene kits, and plastic sheeting to the sites where the needs are most dire. Government spokesman Thabo Masebe was not immediately available for comment.