GOVERNMENT DENIES NEGLECTING REFUGEES

ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa, 31 July 2008

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The Western Cape provincial government on Thursday shrugged off accusations that it had failed to offer adequate support to foreigners displaced by xenophobic attacks. The government had done everything it could to make life easier for displaced foreigners living in the more 40 camps across the city, head of provincial disaster management Hildegarde Fast told journalists. "Government takes the basic needs of the victims seriously, bearing in mind that there are logistical challenges," she said. Accusations by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which had taken the government to court for failure to attend to the basic needs of the displaced, in line with the United Nations standards, were misplaced. While the government had a duty to provide shelter, food and other basic facilities to refugees, it would be unfair to expect it perform beyond what its resources allowed. "Norms and conditions need to be adopted to local standards," she said. The government had provided refugees with meals, shelter and other basic facilities. However, Fast admitted that the UN had raised concerns about aspects of the government's response to the refugee crisis. "We are working consistently with the UN. They have been useful in pointing various gaps... we welcome those points and are addressing them on an ongoing basis. More than 14,000 of the 20,000 refugees that had been housed in the various shelters across the province following the outbreak of xenophobic attacks two months ago, had already been integrated back into communities. On Tuesday the TAC launched an urgent High Court application against the provincial government as well as the City of Cape Town in an effort to improve the living conditions of the more than 4000 refugees still living in camps. It said the government had done nothing to improve falling standards of sanitation, health and nutrition at the camps. Fast declined to be drawn into the TAC case, saying the provincial government needed time to formulate a comprehensive response. The first hearing on the case was due to take place at the Cape High Court next week.