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Camps for displaced foreigners ‘inhumane’

Resource type: News

Cape Times (South Africa) |

Original Source By Chelsea Laun Foreign nationals displaced by xenophobic violence two months ago are still enduring inhumane living conditions and basic human rights violations in Western Cape refugee camps, say two reports by the South African Human Rights Commission and the Joint Refugee Leadership Committee of the Western Cape. The reports say the government has done little to relieve xenophobic fears and has not taken the necessary action in a time of crisis. A joint press conference on Tuesday brought members of the local refugee community and civil society organisations together in an effort to co-ordinate humanitarian assistance and legal support. Both the SAHRC and the Joint Refugee Leadership Committee issued reports stating that a severe lack of communication from government officials had contributed to the poor conditions in the camps. Insufficient food supplies, crowded living spaces and lack of communication by the provincial government and the city had led to tension and confusion among displaced nationals, the reports said. Basic human rights such as access to education and medical care were being denied, the reports added. Representatives from Blue Waters, Chrysalis, Youngsfield, Soetwater, Khayelitsha and the Treatment Action Campaign headed the press conference discussion which emphasised the most pressing matters: education and government-distributed registration cards were at the top of the list. The TAC said that close to 200 children living in the camps do not have access to education, a “disturbing” and “deliberate breach in educational rights”. “It’s unacceptable to have children unable to access the education system,” TAC spokesperson Zackie Achmat said. “The Department of Education has not made an effort to provide transport or a reintegration process.” The department sent refugee leaders a letter about an education plan for children, but no action has been taken. Confusion around registration cards has also caused anxiety. Joseph Sikbwabo, spokesperson for refugees at Blue Waters, said Home Affairs had been unresponsive about the registration requirements. The number of migrants who require documentation is greater than Home Affairs’ processing capabilities – causing stress and panic among people who fear they will be unable to register in the allotted six months. Also, refugees say they fear returning to communities. Refugee leaders have arranged protests for today, tomorrow and Friday at the departments of Home Affairs and education, and the provincial government’s offices.