M&G: Refugees evicted from Klerksoord camp, shacks burnt

a different kind of government responsibility for a different kind of shack fire…


Refugees evicted from Klerksoord camp, shacks burnt
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA Mar 02 2009 12:27

The Klerksoord refugee camp in Akasia, north of Pretoria, is closed, the City of Tshwane said on Monday.

“A decision was taken in August last year to close the camp,” said spokesperson Console Tleane.

The city conducted an audit late last month and found 382 people were still staying at the camp. He said 282 of those would be relocated to a shelter in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, where they would be taken care of by the United Nations.

The remaining 100 would be given a stipend of R2 000 for individuals, and R4 000 per family to find alternative accommodation.

The money was from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Tleane told journalists that city officials burnt the shacks after removing the people from the camps, indicating that no one would be allowed inside again.

Black smoke could be seen rising from the camp. A light aircraft hovered above while policemen, the fire brigade and paramedics waited nearby.

“We want to go home”
Four Somali nationals at the camp said on Monday they want to go to back to their home country.

“I’d rather go home to my home country than go to another shelter,” said Ibraheem Hossaana.

He moved to the camp in May last year after he was attacked and his business looted in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg.

“What I have worked for, for the past five years, is nothing. I’d rather go home or I will die in this camp.”

Opposite the camp women and children with red eyes sat on the belongings they had managed to take, watching as fire destroyed what had been their home for the past nine months.

“It is not fair, our belongings are burning there, we were not given chances to remove all our properties,” said Abdi Asha (56).

She claimed the UNHCR had not been helpful during the past nine months.

“If they could afford [to set up] another shelter, why can’t they help us to go back to Somalia?”

Media denied access
Meanwhile, heavily armed South African Police Service and Metro police officers stood guard at the gates of the shelter and threatened to arrest journalists who entered without permission.

Tleane told journalists that during an operation such as this police had the right to deny media access to the scene, but said he would see if journalists could be allowed to enter later.

Trucks and buses lined the road to the camp, waiting to take most of the people and their belongings to another shelter in Rosettenville, Johannesburg.

An Ethiopian national, Melese Ashonoti, said he learned during the morning that his brothers who stayed in the camp would be moved out.

“I used to stay at the camp, I know how it is to live in the camp. They don’t have blankets, that’s why I brought them some,” he said, indicating a bundle of blankets that he had with him.

There was a heated exchange of words between Ashonoti and metro police when he wanted to enter the camp. After explaining to them that he was bringing blankets to his brothers, they allowed him in.

Refugee camps were set up to house thousands of foreign nationals displaced in an outbreak of xenophobic attacks in May last year.

The Klerksoord refugee camp was dismantled and services suspended in October last year, but some refugees remained. — Sapa