Refugees in Cape Town meet with officials to discuss their options
Hundreds of refugees currently staying at the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town have been in talks with various officials on a way forward.
The refugees were forcibly removed from a sit-in at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last month after demanding to leave South Africa.
The refugees and asylum-seekers have met with officials from Home Affairs, the Social Development Department, the UNHCR, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and several civil society groups.
The UN Refugee Agency had previously urged foreigners in Cape Town to return to their homes in South Africa.
Western Cape SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen says they've been engaged in "dialogues" discussing the challenges facing foreign nationals, refugees, and asylum-seekers in the country.
We've had a number of dialogues with civil society and NGOs and other refugee and asylum-seeker forums.Chris Nissen, Western Cape commissioner - SAHRC
The three options available for the foreign nationals are resettlement to another host country, reparation to their home countries or reintegration into South African society.
Nissen says it's been explained to the group that the UNHCR's resettlement programme only assesses individual cases on a very limited basis.
Many of them maintain that they would prefer to leave South Africa.
The discussions went to and fro around that and in the end, some of them said that they want to leave.Chris Nissen, Western Cape commissioner at SAHRC
Last week, the group of refugees rejected humanitarian aid from the Gift of the Givers after the organisation's director said their demand to be relocated to another country en masse was “unrealistic”.
Gift of the Givers had been providing daily meals, medical assistance and hygiene products to refugees.
Nissen says various government and civil organisations will continue engagements with the group.
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