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SA: refugees camp outside UNHCR headquarters demanding resettlement

Refugees react after conducting a meeting alongside their camping area outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office premises in Pretoria   -  
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PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP or licensors


Dozens of Africans seeking asylum continue to camp outside the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) offices, demanding that they be relocated to other countries, claiming they have been victims of xenophobia in South Africa.

Prior to this, the group has been living in Lindela repatriation and detention center, where they complained that the living conditions were very poor.

Some of these refugees are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo and are pushing to be repatriated to their respective countries.

 "We are here at UNHCR to ask for protection because we are so tired of xenophobia, the lives of our kids are in danger, the future of our kids is in danger, that's why we come to UNHCR to give us protection," said Lukombo Kaese, an asylum seeker from the Congo.

"We have the right as refugees, here's the agreement between the government of South Africa and UNHCR, here's the agreement and we know about it, we have the right to ask for a third country. It is still our right, to come and ask for the third country, it's written here, they know it as much as I can pretend to know it, the South African government and UNHCR," said Johnny Moose, an asylum seeker.

The UNHCR said it was investigating their cases including their initial place where they had taken refuge at Lindela.

The spokesperson at the UNHCR Buchizya Mseteka said resettlement to other countries was not possible.

"But I will tell you what is this, UNHCR has no control over which country can pick up these individuals for settlement, that’s up to the host country to decide, but to tell you how difficult it is, the last year 2021 only one percent of those who applied for settlement globally were accepted, only one percent, so it tells you things are tight even in host countries," said Buchizya.

Home Affairs spokesperson Siyabulela Qoza said of the 85 people outside the UNHCR, 22 have since opted for voluntary repatriation to their countries and are being assisted to do so.