EMOTIONAL SCENES AS REFUGEES LEAVE JOHANNESBURG CAMP

ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa, 22 July 2008

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Police trucks and commuter buses conveyed foreigners from the Glenanda refugee camp to deportation centres on Tuesday. "See you in heaven," and "Jesus is great" people shouted, waving and making peace signs as the buses left the Rifle Range Road camp. The deportees were those who refused to sign for temporary ID documents which would have allowed them to stay in the country for six months. Some people sang and clapped as they boarded the buses. A woman at the camp who did obtain a temporary ID document said some of those leaving were singing because they were happy to get out of South Africa. "They are tired of being here". Earlier, children from the camp ran out of queues to get on the buses to say goodbye to members of the community who had been helping them. The children could not stop crying as people who had been helping them told them to stay strong and waved and blew kisses to them through the fence. People loaded bundles of mattresses, suitcases, bags and odd and ends onto the trucks. One man had a guitar slung around his shoulder. A little child hugged a teddy bear while waiting to board. Dozens of heavily armed metro and South African police officers controlled the evacuation process. Just before the process started, Home Affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula arrived at the camp and was briefed by police. "Enough is enough... The temporary IDs are to identify foreigners and help them. South Africa has been very generous and it is only small groups of people that have been spreading wrong information about the camps," she told reporters at the scene. "We are appealing to all the countries of the foreigners' origin to co-operate with government in assisting with the deportation." Home Affairs spokeswoman Cleo Mosana said the people being removed from the camp were going to be taken to the Lindela repatriation centre. She said about 850 of the camp's 1800 residents had signed for the temporary ID cards. The cards provide legal status to those who lost their documents or those who were undocumented at the time the violence erupted. The deadline for signing for the IDs was Monday afternoon. Some foreign nationals not affected by the xenophobic attacks had been sneaking into the Glenanda camp to get temporary identity cards, said Gauteng provincial government spokesman Thabo Masebe earlier. "They can't do that. This is a special arrangement for victims," said Masebe. He said the fence at the back of the camp had been broken by people sneaking in. The camp's population had risen from 1500 to about 1800 even though some people had been leaving to return to their neighbourhoods. Masebe also said people who had signed for the IDs would soon have to make their own arrangements because the camp would be closed, possibly next week or at least within two weeks. "All government has to do is create safety. People are now free to go back [to the areas they were living in before the attacks]." Earlier Masebe said people who did not sign for the ID's would be "kicked out" of the shelter. "Then they will see for themselves. It is clear that they don't want any assistance from government," he said. Seven foreigners were arrested at the camp on Tuesday, for intimidation and clashing with police, after they allegedly resisted plans to remove them. Trucks did leave earlier on Tuesday with foreigners who did not sign up for the temporary IDs. However the trucks returned to the camp with the people still in them. Masebe said the foreigners were brought back because officials wanted to complete "administrative procedures" before taking them away to deportation centres. Last week police clashed with foreigners after some of them held security guards hostage at the shelter, the biggest refugee camp in Gauteng. A wave of xenophobic attacks that started in Alexandra township on May 12 and then spread around the country, left more than 62 people dead and 17,000 displaced, according to police. About 1400 people were arrested.