On the weekend, somewhere between 500-1000 displaced refugees were moved to a temporary camp about 10 minutes north of where we live. A few of us went yesterday (Wednesday) to assess the situation and see if we might be able to help or join with others who are doing something.
The place is horrible. Too many people in too little space. Various nationalities, no food, no services.
Complicating matters is the fact that the South African government has setup a series of army tents which the people refuse to use. Several stated to me, “South Africans have done this to us. The same police who protect us during the day are the ones who are burning our homes at night. They are all the same. We don’t trust them. We will only accept help from the UN.” The refugees also believe that the government-provided camp is South Africa’s way of rounding them all up and keeping track of them. Many fear that they would actually be in more danger by staying there.
So, while the government-provided camp sits empty, everyone camps in the mud, with a few tents, in an adjacent field. They are threatening and attacking those who do stay in the government camps. There are also rumors of trouble within the refugee camp itself – various political factions from other nations vying for power even here. The camp is housing people from Somalia, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Angola (and others, but those are the nationalities of people I spoke with yesterday).
I heard on the news this morning that there was trouble in the camp last night and that police were firing rubber bullets – not sure why. There is also a hunger strike taking place. Article from today’s news about the camp.
Yesterday, I came home stunned. Several people told me, “I would rather go home to die than to die here.” These are people from countries like Somalia that have been at war for years. And they think that would be a BETTER option. South Africa, how did it come to this?
Help us God. Kingdom come.