South Africa: Tensions continue as immigrants beg to be resettled

As perhaps the world’s most highly touted experiment in multiculturalism continues to crumble, immigrants and refugees storm humanitarian offices insisting they be resettled to first world countries.  See our coverage last week of the anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and with them the demise of the “rainbow nation” myth.

Here is the latest news, this story is from Durban:

The spotlight was thrown on the true nature of intimidation, robbery and assault that Durban’s foreign community has had to deal with, as angry yet desperate foreigners pleaded for help at the gates of the Diakonia Centre on Thursday.

Police were called in to control the furious group of foreign nationals and refugees who had barricaded the gates to the centre after demanding intervention from Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the Mennonite Central Committee Refugee Project (MCC).

Some women clutched babies swaddled in blankets while men waved hastily written placards in the air outside the gates, but they quickly abandoned their protest action and gathered around journalists to tell their individual stories of oppression in a country they thought they were safe in.

Their protest action was aimed directly at forcing the LHR and MCC, who act as local agents for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), to act in assuring them protection and, in some cases, repatriation.

Tensions rose as some vocal refugees shouted at LHR and MCC staff across locked gates, before police intervened and restored calm.

Incidentally, I think the reporter is misusing the word “repatriation” which means to be returned to one’s native country.  The gist of the article is that the immigrants do not want to go back to the country they were escaping from but want third country resettlement—code for free passage to Europe, America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

But LHR attorney Sherylle Dass said the dreams many of the refugees had of being repatriated to other countries, let alone a first world country, were extremely slim.

The intervention of the UNHCR only resulted in about 2 percent of applications for repatriation being successful. It could take up to five years for such applications to be processed.

She said a letter outlining the frustration of Durban’s refugees and foreigners seeking repatriation and help had been sent to the UNHCR fafter the protest action and a subsequent meeting.

“The people were basically seeking protection in various ways. Some want a local refugee camp, but others want to resettle. We have had a steady stream of resettlement applications before the xenophobic attacks, but now there has been a huge influx,” Dass said.

“Some may have security risk, but there are those who are using this as an opportunity to get into a first world country.”

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