PRETORIA – Home Affairs portfolio committee chairperson, Bongani Bongo, condemned in the strongest terms the violence of refugees at the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town and the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pretoria.
He said the acts of violence against the police and the clergy undermined the refugees’ plight and violated the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol that placed an obligation on refugees to abide by the laws and regulations of the country in which they sought asylum.
“The acts of violence undermined the goodwill that has prevailed towards the refugees in the country,” Bongo said.
“While we acknowledge the concerns that the refugees are highlighting, the forceful turn of events diminishes the work that ensures refugees are treated in accordance with internationally recognised legal standards.”
The committee said it had several discussions with the UNHCR and the Department of Home Affairs during the fifth parliamentary term to find solutions to challenges that refugees in South Africa faced.
“Since its inception, the current committee has committed itself to working with the Department of Home Affairs in alleviating the problems on refugees to ensure that South Africa keeps its legal obligations in relation to refugees,” it said in a statement.
The committee called on refugees and all interested parties to find lasting solutions through dialogue. “The committee calls on all South Africans to engage on the issue of refugees with great care and with a high spirit of Ubuntu and also driven by the fact that South Africa is a member of the United Nations.”
“The committee also calls on the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that the rights of everyone within the borders of the Republic of South Africa as enshrined in the Constitution and assured under the Refugees Act and the Immigration Act, are protected and promoted at all times.”
It has also called for on the government and the UNHCR to work together to find solutions to the challenges that refugees have highlighted.