ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa, 30 July 2008
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Government inaction in the face of deteriorating living conditions in camps for displaced foreign nationals has forced refugees to take legal steps against the state, the Treatment Action Campaign said on Wednesday. Briefing the media in Cape Town, former TAC chairman Zackie Achmat said Tuesday's Cape High Court application by the organisation, together with a number of refugees, came after the Western Cape provincial government as well as the City of Cape Town had ignored numerous appeals to assist refugees. "I have never seen so much dithering in government - the government has a duty to ensure that equal constitutional standards are upheld," he said. It was unacceptable for the government to fold its arms when people were living in such appalling condition without running water and other basic facilities. Achmat said although the TAC was an organisation focusing on issues of HIV/Aids, it had no option but to intervene given that the situation at the camps amounted to a humanitarian crisis. "We do not do this easily - we really would prefer the government to fulfil its constitutional obligation in terms of displaced people," he said. Quoting from a recent report by the United Nations on the living conditions of displaced foreign nationals in the country, Achmat said the South African government had failed to give refugees enough information on how exactly it was intending to address their problems. "The current lack of communication from the government to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) is causing severe psychological distress and will likely hinder reintegration or other durable solution," he said. The first court hearing on the matter is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.