A contingent of South African officials made up of members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), immigration officials, and social department officers took part in the eviction of about 100 refugees that had been living in a camp set outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Pretoria. The eviction took place early on the morning of Friday, April 21st. Armed with a megaphone, State Attorney Kobus Meijer warned the refugees to move out of the camp willingly or face arrest. He said the evicted refugees would be relocated to the Lindela Repatriation Center, a facility that accommodates undocumented immigrants while they await deportation to their countries.
According to South Africa’s News24, the majority of refugees left voluntarily while some resisted, refusing to leave the camp. It is alleged that a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo shouted that she would rather die there than go to Lindela. Some of the refugees opted to reintegrate into the community. Times Live reported that eight people had been arrested by the SAPS for refusing to move from the refugee camp
The order to evict the refugees from the camp came from a high court. As previously mentioned, the evicted refugees would be taken to Lindela. However, Lindela has proved to be unpopular with the migrants who have been held there. Some have compared the repatriation center to a concentration camp or prison. The evicted refugees found themselves illegally setting up a camp outside the UNHCR offices following xenophobic attacks targeting the migrant community that occurred in 2019.
The UNHCR agreed with the removal of the refugees claiming the camp they had been living in was unhealthy, unsanitary, and unsafe conditions. “We are relieved that the operation to remove the campers from the UNHCR office in Pretoria went ahead smoothly and peacefully today. Around 100 people have been living on the premises for around a year,” said Laura Padoan, a spokesperson for UNHCR.
“These individuals have been living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions without adequate shelter, and we have been particularly concerned for the welfare of the children who have been living on a dangerous street and not attending school,” she added. Padoan said if refugees made a choice to reintegrate into the community, UNHCR would be willing to offer a helping hand.