Refugees fed up with a year of living in limbo

The children of the refugee camp act out a scene of receiving donations during a play depicting their struggles over the last year.

The refugees living at the Paint City camp in Bellville say they are fed up with empty promises from the City of Cape Town and the misery of living in limbo.

Thursday October 8 marked a year since refugees marched to the UN offices in Cape Town and Pretoria, asking to be moved to countries where they felt they would be treated better. The refugees at Paint City say their lives have been on a downward spiral since then.

“We cannot live like this any longer,” said camp resident Aline Bukuru.

“The people living here cannot support themselves because we cannot work, and we get no help from anybody. The offices to renew our permits have been closed since lockdown so we cannot get new papers, and our children do not get any birth certificates so they cannot go to schools or get any sort of support from the government.”

To mark the one-year anniversary, the refugees invited the media to the camp and gave them a tour of the facilities. They also had the camp’s children perform a play depicting their struggles over the past year.

The play depicted the refugees’ removal from the Cape Methodist Church in Cape Town, xenophobic attacks and assistance from NGOs such as Gift of the Givers.

“We have been asking for somebody from the City to come and speak to us, but they do not come and listen to us,” Ms Bukuru said.

“We are just told that we must stay here and that they are working on a solution, but nothing ever happens.

What we want is for the United Nations to step in and grant us safe passage out of South Africa. We do not want to be here anymore because the people and the government treat us like lesser humans. We cannot get the paperwork to work, and then we face xenophobia when we try to open up shops or business to support our families. When we go to the police to report xenophobic attacks, then we are ignored. We are ignored all the time, and that makes us feel despondent and depressed.

The last time the City was here was to tell us that they will be tearing down the fences in order to allow the taxis to park right here by us, but we do want that because (the taxi drivers) shoot at each other all the time, and by them being here, we will be right in the middle of the bullets and other dangers.”

Bellville police spokesman Captain Johnathan Blankenberg said police were investigating cases of xenophobic attacks, but no arrests had been made.

Richard Bosman, the City’s executive director for safety and security, said the City was working with the national Department of Home Affairs to find a way to reintegrate the refugees back into their communities.

“The implementation, once approved, will be done within the parameters of the National Disaster Management Act regulations. The process has not been finalised yet.”

The City did not respond to a question about plans to move the refugees to the Wingfield site in Goodwood. Ms Bukur said those plans were news to her.