JOHANNESBURG – The African Diaspora Forum (ADF) has condemned clashes between migrants and law-enforcements in South Africa, which it says have become commonplace.
During the past couple of months, there have been at least three occasions in which migrants and law-enforcement agencies have been involved in a hostile stand-off, the most recent being the clashes between members of the South African Police Services and refugees in Cape Town and Pretoria, who camped outside the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) trying to force a group transfer to other countries, claiming they no longer felt safe in “xenophobic” South Africa.
The UNHCR has argued that it is not allowed to transfer refugees to other countries unless there is a ready receiving country and that even in such an event, the transfers can only be handled on an individual, not group case. The refugees lost court cases on both occasions, leading to them being forcefully removed byt the police.
Following the clashes, the ADF, an umbrella body of migrants communities from 34 African and Asian countries, said it noted with regret the clash between members of the SAPS and refugees in Pretoria, which came hard on the heels of yet another similar stand-off in Cape Town.
“As the umbrella organization representing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa, the ADF regrets the continuing trend in which members of the migrant community have been caught up in these clashes with law-enforcement agencies and which have worryingly become commonplace. It threatens to render the enforcement of law by South African authorities a bit more difficult,” said Amir Sheikh, the ADF’s Public relations Officer, at the weekend.
“The stoning of police officers in Pretoria and the violence perpetrated against members of the clergy and a member of the SA Human Rights Commission are condemned in the strongest terms. It’s the established view of the ADF that violence never delivers solutions and that dialogue is the only way forward.
“We also plead with the law-enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and respect for human rights in handling these refugees and or enforcing court orders, especially because there are women and children among them, who are the most vulnerable during these clashes.”
The ADF implored the South African government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to “lend a listening ear to the grievances being raised by these refugees and where possible, work with them in the best manner possible to try and address their problems within international statutes – including educating them on the provisions of international law in terms of refugee repatriation and transfer to another country”, while also pleading with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to act responsibly in airing their grievances, warning that breaking South African laws would compound their problems.
“Breaking South African laws and acting in contempt of court judgments will not solve the genuine concerns some of these refugees have, but will only paint a negative picture of migrants. It creates the wrong impression that migrants are lawless people who disrespect the goodwill being extended to them by the host government,” added the ADF.
“We would not like a situation where refugees continue to either disrespect South African law enforcement agencies, or act in contempt of court decisions as this would set a bad precedent which could in future count against the migrant and refugee community.
“In the eyes of the public, apparent disrespect for court judgments and clashes with police will only attract adverse reactions from some sections of the South African society and leave refugees and migrants more susceptible to prejudice. The ADF hopes that everyone concerned will engage in dialogue so that an amicable solution could be is reached within the confines of South African laws and international statutes, regarding this stand-off.”