Refugee ‘leaders’ both out on bail

Parow resident JP Balous, who is the leader of refugees occupying the Central Methodist Church, has been arrested on assault charges.

The two refugee leaders who were arrested have each been released on R2 000 bail and barred from entering the city centre unless it is to attend court or they have permission from the investigating officer.

Papy Sukami, who appeared in court on Thursday January 9, was accused of mugging two people in October last year, while JP Balous appeared on Friday January 10 on eight assault charges after a fight broke out at the church (“Refugee leaders arrested”, CapeTowner, January 9).

The two were allegedly fighting over leadership of the group of refugees living in the Methodist church on Greenmarket Square, and about six men were allegedly injured with pangas and bricks during the altercation.

Meanwhile, representatives of the refugee community in Pretoria had come down to lead the 800 refugees still living in and around the Methodist Church in the absence of their “leaders”.

The refugees said they wanted to be moved from South Africa, where they felt unsafe. They first sought shelter at the church after they were evicted, on Wednesday October 30, from the nearby Waldorf Arcade, where they had protested for weeks outside the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Meetings being held to find solutions to the issue are ongoing, and Cape Town Central police spokesperson Captain Ezra October said they were monitoring the situation, and also that public order policing were on standby if the situation became tense.

UNHCR spokesperson Heinn Shin said meetings had been held since last week to find a solution that made everyone happy. They had not, however, reached an agreement yet.

She said one of the biggest challenges they faced was the misinformation spread by the leaders, who had been giving people false hope about being resettled.

“Resettlement is not an option. Even if we do resettle people, it needs to be done individually and could take years,” she said.

“We appeal to people to go back to their communities. We have all the role players on board and we will assist with anything they need.”

She said the government had also offered to assist.

“Hopefully in the next few weeks, we can reach an agreement.”

The City applied to the Western Cape High Court for an urgent interdict to evacuate the refugees, citing by-law violations, but the court told it to find an alternative solution. The matter will be heard at the High Court on Tuesday January 28.

The City and the South African Human Rights Commission did not respond to our enquiries by the time this edition went to print.