Wed, 08 Jul 2020

The police believe refugees who are staging a protest outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) offices in Pretoria are exercising their constitutional rights and that the gathering is not illegal.

The national and provincial police commissioners have entered a court battle that seeks to remove the protesting refugees from the UNHCR's offices in Pretoria.

They have been living on the pavements outside the offices since the beginning of October.

Living in tents and makeshift structures, refugees are asking to be resettled in another country as they fear xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The police also argued that it was not within their mandate to ascertain the identities of the refugees, and that an order for them to do so was borne out of ignorance of the immigration laws.

Citing the Immigration Act, the police said it was "patently clear that the Department of Home Affairs is the appropriate respondent, properly equipped" to determine the details and status of the refugees and that a person who was found to be in the country illegally should be arrested by immigration officers.

"We know the court is not here to protect refugees, so we are ready for anything. This happened in Cape Town already," Bukuru said, referring to refugees who were removed from the UNHCR's offices in Cape Town following a court order.

Fellow DRC national Alex Mongo, who says he has been in South Africa since 2008, agreed with Bukuru.

"We don't have homes, we have nowhere to go. Let them bring the coffins, we are used to violence, we are used to attacks," he said.

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