The KZN Premier’s initiative
The Premier of KZN the Honourable Senzo Mchunu has been concerned about the situation of refugees both in Hope Farm and those that had occupied Becker Street in Durban. He had a series of meetings with the different government departments including the national Deputy Minister of Home Affairs as well as senior representatives of United Nation High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) to try and find remedial intervention. The Premier through MEC of Community Safety and Liaison (Honourable Willies Mchunu) as well as MEC for Social Development (Honourable Weziwe Thusi) invited KZNCC and other civil society organisations involved in migration and anti-xenophobia work for a briefing. The briefing included what the organisations had been doing and what they think the solution should be.
The Premier then convened a meeting with all stakeholders which included government officials, civil society organisations, church leaders and UNHCR to present a solution. The meeting took place on the 29 April 2016 in Diakonia Council of Churches. The Premier announced that together with the national Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, they have come up with a solution on how the problem of refugees would be resolved. They have persuaded the UNHCR to reopen the financial packages aimed at supporting refugees to either integrate to communities, be repatriated or assessed with a possibility to be resettled if they qualify. The head of UNHCR South Africa office (Mr. George Kuchio) confirmed this and gave details. A refugee family is going to be given R7000.00 and single refugee receiving R3000.00.
This was presented to refugees firstly in the Hall in Diakonia and later to the refugees who were still remaining at Hope Farm.
The latest on Refugees who were outside Becker Shelter
The majority of refugees who were outside the shelter at Backer Street have reported not to have taken packages. At the time this report was written, only one family had taken the package from those who were at the street. It is not clear why the refugees are not taken these packages. We spoke to the few who had said that it is extremely small and is next to nothing.
In an unexpected development, the refugees have moved from the street and they are now inside the shelter. They reporting that this is their own initiative where they have negotiated with the owner of the shelter and they are paying on daily basis. Some have reported that they busy looking for jobs. They said they will remain in the shelter until UNHCR come back to interview them for resettlement purposes.
The situation at Hope Farm
Out of 31 refugees who were still remaining at Hope Farm, 17 have left leaving about 14 (1 family and 7 singles). Those who have left have are taking packages and are situated at the temporal shelter in Durban not far from the Workshop. Those that are remaining at Hope Farm are saying that they are not safe to leave the farm and would prefer to leave after the interview with UNHCR.
The farmer has started an eviction process and they were (refugees) due to appear in Court on the 9 May 2016. They had approached KZNCC for help with transport to go to court as well continuing with supplying them with food. Representatives from KZNCC visited them on the 8th May 2016 to listen to their request and their future plans. After some discussions, KZNCC came to the conclusion that it cannot justify assisting them whilst the government as well as UNHCR have reintroduce packages. KZNCC has since suspended its support to the group which is remaining at Hope Farm.
It is our suspicion that the reason why some of the refugees are not taking the package is that they are under the impression that if they do, it will jeopardise their possibility for resettlement. There are those who have raised the issues of the packages being small since it has no start-ups in case someone wants to start a business.
KZNCC together with Diakonia Council of Churches has organised a narrative therapy to help refugees to deal with their situation and help them to reorganise their lives. This service is available every Thursday at Diakonia between 9h00-12h00.
On behalf of KZNCC, we would like to thank government for taking this issue upon itself, UNHCR and its partners for the role it is playing towards find a solution and continuous support to refugees.
For any form of assistance and, or further clarification, please contact the following:
Musa Zakwe; Cell no 0839833524, 033-3454819
50 Langalibalele Street. Kwa-Zulu Natal Christian Council. Pietermaritzburg