Media: Somalis harassed and threatened, but too broke to leave

20 10 2009

Backs to wall in Blikkiesdorp (Note: Police are trying to enforce an illegal 9pm curfew in Blikkiesdorp)

October 13, 2009 Edition 1
MARY-ANNE GONTSANA

SOMALIS warned by people in Blikkiesdorp to move out or face the wrath of the community, remain adamant that they want to leave South Africa.

“There has been no physical violence, but (the Somalis) report that they are being threatened and harassed daily,” said Charlene May, the group’s legal representative from the Legal Resources Centre (LRC).
“We were told by the SAPS that the threats were from people who were unhappy about the Somalis receiving houses.”

The Somalis have asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to move them as they had no money to pay for their return to Somalia.

“The UNHCR cannot send them back to Somalia as it remains one of the most violent places in the world and does not have a (functioning) central government, which is why many of them fled the country,” May said.

“The only option that we have now is resettlement, a process that can be done only through the UNHCR.

“If they cannot be resettled, then they have to remain in Blikkiesdorp, rebuild financially and move somewhere safer, or make enough money to leave the country on their own account.”

The families were moved from the Blue Waters safe site to the Blikkiesdorp emergency camp in Delft as they and others were identified as a group which would be vulnerable if there were renewed xenophobic attacks.

May said they were told that the facilities would be better than at Blue Waters, but the conditions in Blikkiesdorp were worse.

“There is no electricity, water is from the taps outside and they are being stopped by the residents from using the toilets,” May said.

Conditions at Blue Waters were also difficult, according to May.

Since the site’s closure last November, no services, such as deliveries of food or clothing, had been allowed. Charities delivering food were sometimes stopped at the gate, and many of the tents had blown down.

Gerald Flagg, chairman of the Blikkiesdorp residents’ committee, said that he was working closely with the Somalis.

“They are doing well, there have been no threats or violence from the other residents,” he said.

“The SAPS are patrolling daily and law enforcement takes over at night.”

According to Flagg, police sound their vehicle sirens at 9pm to warn the people of Blikkiesdorp that they should be indoors.

This was a way of averting criminal activity, he said.

May said the LRC was monitoring the situation at Blikkiesdorp and keeping in contact with the UNHCR.

mary-anne.gontsana@inl.co.za

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