CAPE TOWN – The police’s crackdown against foreigner nationals occupying the offices of the United Nations Refugee Agency resulted in chaos in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Earlier, officers fired rubber bullets and arrested more than 100 people.
The refugees and foreign nationals were participating in a nationwide protest against xenophobic violence, calling on the UN to intervene to get them out of South Africa.
Police fired rubber bullets and targeted water cannons at a second group of refugees in the Green Market Square.
As police officers fired shots, some refugees ran into a nearby church while others scattered into various roads.
The foreign nationals and refugees have been staging a sit-in for weeks in the hope that the UN Refugee Agency would organise them passage out of the country.
Following today’s violence, some of the remaining protesters packed up their belongings.
But others weren’t budging, saying the action against them was unacceptable.
“They shoot me here and after they come and say South Africa is not xenophobic.”
Police were still in the area monitoring the situation.
REFUGEES FIND REFUGE IN A CHAPEL
It’s understood hundreds of foreigners found refuge in a chapel off Green Market Square.
Organisations were also believed to be inside meeting, while police kept a watchful eye outside.
The usually busy square in the heart of the city was deserted and shops were closed.
There’s been widespread reaction to the decision to forcibly remove protesting foreigners.
Cape Town refugee organisation, Scalabrini Centre, said before police became heavy-handed, protesters were given ample warnings to leave the area, especially the mothers with children.
In a statement, the centre said the foreigners’ demand to be resettled was not a solution which it believed would help their development and integration within South African society.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s Shenilla Mohamed called on police to exercise restraint.
The Human Rights Commission’s Chris Nissen said they’ve been assessing the situation.
The HRC said it had been dealing with the matter since the sit-in started three weeks ago.
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