CONGOLESE REFUGEES AGREE TO MOVE

Cape Argus , 20 June 2008

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Congolese refugees living at the Soetwater camp, near Kommetjie, agreed last night to move to the Blue Waters camp, near Strandfontein. Mayor Helen Zille's spokesperson Robert MacDonald said between 300 and 500 refugees would be taken by bus to Blue Waters starting on Friday. The Ethiopian and Somali refugees wanted to discuss the matter further, according to Helen Zille's spokesperson Robert MacDonald. He said provincial mediators and UN officials would go to the camp on Friday to speak to them. On Wednesday night the government said its intention was to move all 1 300 refugees at Soetwater to Blue Waters over three days because the former was too exposed to wind and rain. This as all three levels of government were raked over the coals yesterday for their treatment of foreigners. Civil society is to take the City of Cape Town to court early next week over its refusal to open community halls to refugees. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) released a report on the "untenable conditions" where undocumented immigrants queue to be shuttled to Home Affairs and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein condemned the city and province for their response to the crisis. Fatima Hassan, of the Aids Law Project, said Zille's reasons for not opening the community halls had changed. She said Zille first claimed the venues were needed for weddings and other events, and then later said they were needed for South Africans left homeless by flooding. "Her tune has changed and somebody has to hold her legally and morally responsible," Hassan said. Also at the conference was Feinstein, now based in London, who said he was ashamed and angry as he followed the xenophobic attacks and refugee crisis from afar. On Wednesday he visited the Caledon Street refugee group, which spent the first three days of the crisis sleeping outside the Central police station. The TAC and the Cape Town Jewish Community paid for them to stay in a private lodge, called the Train Lodge, near the Civic Centre for two weeks. On Wednesday, the TAC said that it was no longer able to fund them, and they spent most of the day trying to find alternative accommodation. They eventually slept outside the police station on Wednesday night, and again last night. One refugee in particular compelled Feinstein to take a stand. The man, a former journalist, looked at him with tears in his eyes and said, "We just want to be treated like human beings". Also on Thursday, the SAHRC and civil society held a press conference on the untenable conditions at the Foreshore Overpass, where undocumented immigrants queue to be taken to Home Affairs. In addition to immigrants seeking asylum there are two other vulnerable populations there, according to Judith Cohen, senior manager at the SAHRC - homeless South Africans and victims of xenophobic violence. At the conference was a Mozambican man, who asked not to be named. He said his cousin had been killed by a gang while waiting in the queue. "This certainly does appear to be the worst site in Cape Town," Cohen said.