13 March 2020
Reverend Alan Storey of the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town’s Greenmarket Square says the church will now seek legal help to remove a group of refugees who have been living on its premises since the end of October 2019.
In a statement published on Thursday, Reverend Storey said that the church was “in the process” of seeking “relief from the courts”.
“From the beginning it has been communicated to the refugees in the church that the sanctuary is a ‘temporary safe place’ and that a way forward would soon be found that would include vacating Central Methodist Mission,” said Storey.
“On numerous occasions over the past five months, the refugee leadership gave me the assurance that they will vacate the church. They did not honour these commitments.”
“Over the last few weeks I have put up notices (in all the languages of those staying in the church) requesting people to vacate the church. This request is being ignored. From conversations with the leadership of the refugees it is clear to me that they still believe that their demand to go to a third country will be met and that they will not vacate until it is met. It is also clear to me that they have nothing to gain by remaining in the church. They are literally wasting their time,” said Storey.
Hundreds of refugees have been staying inside and outside the church in the city centre for months after being forcefully removed from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices on St Georges Mall on 30 October 2019. They have been demanding to be resettled, as a group, in another country. But on Wednesday, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi warned that the group of refugees could be repatriated if they refuse offers of reintegration to their communities.
Storey said, “It has been disturbing to witness how people who themselves have been victims of violence have turned against each other in violence, becoming the very thing they hate and adding impetus to the cycle of violence continuing.”