FOREIGNERS STRANDED NEAR LINDELA

The Star, 24 July 2008

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Hundreds of foreigners have reportedly been stranded without shelter, food and water next to a filling station - a stone's throw away from the Lindela Repatriation Centre. The group - which included women and children - were part of a contingent of more than 700 displacees taken from Joburg's Glenanda refugee camp to Lindela after government officials said they had refused to provide their personal details. Officials were last night trying to establish whether the group, who had been living at the Glenanda camp, were entitled to stay in South Africa. The refugees had been given the option of registering for temporary identification cards that would give them legal protection for six months if they were found to be in SA illegally. Earlier last night there were conflicting reports as to why the group had ended up stranded. A man who identified himself as Jimmy Taban said officials at Lindela had told them to fend for themselves. "They say we should find our (own) way, or we should go back to the communities where we came from," he said. But Home Affairs head of communications Siobhan McCarthy disputed this version of events. She said the group had insisted they did not want any assistance from the department. "They have refused our help. They have said they would rather leave even after we asked them to stay the night from a security point of view. They have documents that allow them to stay in the country. We can't assist them further. What we will not do is allow them to stay in the shelters, because they don't have the certificates," she said. Meanwhile, just under 4 000 people remain in refugee camps across Gauteng, the provincial government estimates. An official count was due to take place today, said spokesperson Thabo Masebe, while a deadline to shut the centres would be decided within days. Almost two months have passed since six camp sites were set up across Gauteng to house thousands of people displaced by xenophobic violence. Masebe said access control was a problem that had resulted in numbers dropping more slowly than expected and even saw new migrants arrive, despite not having been caught up in the attacks. "The committee (led by MEC for Social Development Kgaogelo Lekgoro) will meet in the next few days and set an exact day when the shelters will be dismantled," Masebe said. "We are all still working on the two-months period." The camps erected in Gauteng include the troublesome Glenanda centre, which saw about 700 refugees taken for deportation this week after they refused to register with Home Affairs. Masebe said it was this process that had caused some difficulty because people who left before the initiative was launched two weeks ago were returning to the camps. "Until two weeks ago, on average, shelters were losing 10 to 15 people per day. Everything was going smoothly, but after the special exemption programme, some people came back to the shelters."