Category Archives: Claire Myhill

The Times: Arrests add to strain on church and refugees

Arrests add to strain on church and refugees
Claire Myhill and Harriet Mclea

REFUGEES who were arrested for loitering, after seeking shelter outside Johannesburg’s Central Methodist Mission, are back on the streets after spending the weekend in jail.

Because the group can no longer sleep outside, for fear of being rearrested by the Johannesburg Metro Police and SAPS officers, the mission’ s Bishop Paul Verryn is now forced to let them sleep in the church’s sanctuary, which was previously kept clear for worshippers.

Two refugees, both Zimbabweans who asked not to be named, spoke of how police officers slapped them awake and sprayed them with tear gas shortly before midnight on Friday.

Their last meagre possessions were allegedly dumped in a police truck . They have received nothing back.

An elderly man, with only socks on his feet, told The Times yesterday that his only pair of shoes were stolen after his arrest.

A young man, who was also part of the 245-member group arrested, attends a computer training college in the city to better his prospects. But he can no longer go to class because all his clothes were stolen .

Bianca Tolboom, a nurse and project co-ordinator from the church’s Medicins Sans Frontier clinic, said: “Most of the people are sleeping inside the church now and others are going into hiding.”

The young Zimbabwean student said he was part of a group sleeping on the pavement when police woke him up.

“The police picked up everyone’s blankets and bags and threw everything in their truck,” he said, adding that a policewoman on the scene was slapping people awake with her hands and forcing them to climb into the waiting trucks.

Verryn said: “We tried to keep the worship spaces free of people, but we can’t do that anymore.

“It is particularly spiteful to go for the poorest of the poor. One doesn’t stay on the street because one wants to.”