"Besides sending some supplies and some evaluators to the country, the UN has been largely absent during these past three weeks of violence against refugees in our country. We believe that the UNHCR is in violation of its own international mandate and obligation to assist and advise people who have been displaced by the violence."
"We believe that the South African office of the UNHCR has failed to respond meaningfully to the needs of displaced people."
In this response the City Health Department referred the issue to the Province because the facility is "under the authority of the Provincial Health Department as our facilities operate only during the day."
This letter guarantees the right of refugees to health care at Provincial facilities: "Our policy is not to turn anyone away."
TAC and our Civil Society has produced numerous memorandums, newsletters and press statements throughout this crisis. This page is our effort to make these documents publicly available.
Memorandums and Responses
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Since the 23rd of May, there have been thousands of displaced people living in camps and ‘safety’ sites around Cape Town. According to the Provincial Government as reported in the Cape Times on Friday 04 July, there are still more than 5 700 people staying at these sites. TAC estimates stand at 6171 displaced people.
On 2 July, TAC organised a picket outside of the United Nations building in Pretoria to demand a response to a memorandum handed over to the UNHCR by Gauteng civil society on 20 June 2008. The event was attended by 600 people, all of whom called on the UNHCR to intervene in the humanitarian crisis now facing South Africa.
The community leader from the refugee camp in Acasia highlighted of the plight of foreign nationals living in the camp. He spoke of the poor conditions in the camp and told people about the hunger strike they are currently on to protest being given outdated food - and even expired infant formula, dated 2003.
TAC's Secretary General Vuyiseka Dubula also spoke about civil society's frustration over the lack of response from the UNHCR after 12 days and the belief that the UNHCR is not interested in addressing the matters raised in the memorandum.
A representative of the UNHCR promised to address the memorandum promptly and admitted that he and his peers and seniors had not discussed the matter yet.
The Social Justice Coalition made up of the diverse people of South Africa held a meeting on Wednesday 25 June 2007 to demonstrate their solidarity with victims of rights abuses in Zimbabwe and those of xenophobic attacks.
This is part of the launch of the Social Justice Coalition, highlighting the continuing political crisis in Zimbabwe and calling on people across South Africa and elsewhere to press the Southern African Development, (SADC), African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN) to act decisively to end systematic political violence in Zimbabwe and resolve the country’s long-standing political crisis.
A panel discussion was held on Tuesday 24 June at the AIDS Law Project offices in Cape Town. The subject of the discussion was “Taking Stock: Violence, xenophobia and camps: Where to from here?”
Panellists included Sharon Ekambaram, General Director of Médecins Sans Frontières South Africa based in Johannesburg, Mohammad Hirsi, refugee representative, Zackie Achmat of the TAC and Fatima Hassan, senior attorney with the AIDS Law Project.
About 400 people including TAC members and displaced refugees delivered a memorandum to the Western Cape Provincial Government today.
Immediately following the xenophobic attacks in the Western Cape in May 2008, thousands of displaced foreign nationals sought shelter and safety in more than 85 sites across Cape Town. Some were cared for by faith-based organizations, and community organisations, others were provided basic food and shelter by NGOs. Thousands more were forced by their dire circumstances into the bigger refugee camps.
As a response to the recent attacks on foreign nationals in Western Cape, individuals from all walks of life have been mobilised in providing humanitarian relief. Lack of faith in the government, city, big business and even civil society has led us to respond individually and voluntarily.
The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is an independent group that believes in freedom, equality, non-violence and a human rights framework that respects among others, the right of every person to life, dignity, and access to health care.
I watched from a distance as the xenophobic violence unfolded in South Africa. At first, I was ashamed - Is this what our young democracy has become? My shame evolved to anger as the utter lack of leadership and inadequate government response further exacerbated the situation. However, amid these feelings of disgust, I also felt pride and admiration towards those proactive organizations who worked to alleviate the suffering of displaced peoples. The Jewish community and TAC paid for a group of around 140 refugees to stay at the train lodge until yesterday, when they ran out of funds. The mosque on Tennyson Street opened its doors to more than 180 refugees. Old TAC offices have been converted to refugee camps, and hundreds are staying in Methodist Churches around the city.