●Cape Town: Xenophobia latest – Solamli family murdered & camps about to close

08Oct08

LINK – To article on Protest march in Queenstown by residents – walking side by side with Somalis yesterday to protesting against ongoing attacks against nationals from the east African state. A Somali mother, Sahra Omar Farah, 41 and her three children, Mohamed Isse Osman, 19 and Ibrahim Isse Osman, 14 and Asha Isse Osman, 12, were brutally stabbed and hacked to death in their spaza shop two weeks ago.

“QUEENSTOWN PROTEST: Community members gather for the anti-xenophobia march yesterday, joined by Somalians who shared the pain of the family of the murdered mother and her three children.”
Picture: THEO JEPTHA

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Latest info on refugee camps status by Tracey Saunders
Re: Extension Of Closure Deadlines & DHA Rapid Status Determination Process.

Deadlines Loom For Displaced People In The Western Cape As Camps Face Closure – 8 October 2008

A. EXTENSION OF CLOSURE DEADLINES
On Thursday 2 October 2008 at a meeting between civil society and government, it was announced that the “deregistration” (closure) of camps would begin with Harmony Park on Friday 10 October 2008.
This closure was announced under the assumption that the more than 800 people staying at the camp would be able to reintegrate by then.
Civil society, in consultation with the Joint Refugee Leadership Committee of the Western Cape (JRLC) were immediately alerted to several issues which would make the closure premature.
Subsequently, civil society and the JRLC met with government and the UNHCR to voice their concerns.
As a result of this meeting, government agreed to set the closure of Harmony Park back one week to 17 October 2008, and to keep at least one camp open until such time as reintegration and repatriation assistance has been provided, and vulnerable individuals (single mothers, the elderly and the infirm) have been assisted with acquiring accommodation. Our understanding of this is that no one who still requires assistance would be forced onto the street.

Despite misgivings regarding conditions attached to an insufficient reintegration package offered (see attached) and the short time-frame involved, this concession is viewed as a positive development by the JRLC and civil society. All parties concerned, including those staying in the camps, agree that the camps must close, conditional to practical concerns being addressed. Civil society welcomes the apparent willingness of decision makers in government to listen and respond to practical concerns from those staying in the camps.

We echo the warnings of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, commenting on the recent murders of a Somali family in the Eastern Cape who said that “The authorities should take particular care not to place those still in camps after the May violence back into dangerous situations”.

B. DHA RAPID STATUS DETERMINATION PROCESS

One of the main concerns regarding the premature closure of the camps is the flawed Department of Home Affairs Rapid Status Determination process conducted two weeks ago in the camps. A team of DHA officials conducted very short interviews, and subsequently rejected many people’s applications for status. Many people are still in the process of lodging appeals, and others awaiting a decision on their application.

At least 90% of these processed applications were rejected. Amongst those rejected were people from Somalia and Eastern DRC, victims of political persecution and other vulnerable groups such as gay men who face imprisonment or worse in their home countries.

During the interviews (this is supported by Amnesty International):

DHA provided no interpreters, thus the questions and responses were not effectively communicated, leading to misunderstandings and mistakes of fact.
DHA provided no proper information on the process.
Interviews were conducted in crowded tents, thus resulting in a lack of confidentiality for people who had to share sensitive information.
Despite assurances made by Richard Sikakane, the government official in charge of the process, legal monitors offering advice to IDPs were not always allowed access to the interview area.
Some IDPs reported that DHA officials wrote down incorrect information, and failed to consider information about their relevant countries of origin.
After some interviews, IDPs reported that the officials had written ‘unfounded’ (rejected) on their forms immediately.
DHA officials were reportedly insensitive to IDPs, and did not allow them to explain why they deserve refugee status. One official reportedly called the IDPs ‘amakwerekwere’, which is shocking behaviour for a government official conducting such interviews. We do not know if this individual has been disciplined.

The process has been condemned by MSF and Amnesty International, as well as civil society organisations and volunteers.

This rejection rate means that many in the camps will be in the middle of an appeals process that can take months (owing to a backlog at DHA), and some of the IDPs will be forced to reintegrate without having received their status notifications. Once people have left the camps it may be much harder for them to follow the appeals process.

There are some documented refugees who are in the process of being voluntarily repatriated to their home countries. This process can take several weeks (according to the UNHCR it will take six weeks), and they will require shelter in the camps until such time their repatriation process has been completed.

Tracey Saunders

[BIZLINKS WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU A LITTLE ABOUT Tracy – she is a volunteer & has a day job too – when things quietened down in the media 99.9% of us all sighed a sigh of relief and got back to our lives – but things were still seriously terrible for the xenophobia survivors in the camps – thanks to Tracy’s unstoppable concern & care for the people holding camps – while the rest of us were ‘getting on with out lives’ she was still there fighting to get things sorted for them. My goodness what would have become of all the displaced people and children if it wasn’t for all her running around and helping them – she deserves a heap of medals – gold ones so she can sell them if she wants to – gold is @ an amazingly high price these days – Iwonder why?!]

Tracey Saunders [contact details]
Email: peace4africa@gmail.com
Telephone: 021 797 3660 Mobile: 084 561 9131 Fax: 086 611-7167
Postal address: P O Box 53123, Kenilworth, 7745
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”
– St. Augustine



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