Refugees evicted in Pretoria and find shelter in Bronkhorstspruit | Witbank News

Refugees evicted in Pretoria and find shelter in Bronkhorstspruit | Witbank News

Refugees evicted in Pretoria and find shelter in Bronkhorstspruit | Witbank News

Following the eviction of more than 100 asylum seekers by South African Police Services (SAPS), refugees have been accommodated in an old school building in Bronkhorstspruit between Emalahleni and Pretoria.

The refugees camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in Pretoria for a year after they were allegedly placed by authorities following violent xenophobic attacks that broke out in Sunnyside, Pretoria in 2019.

The group of 33 families was given the option to risk going to jail or return to a detention centre for undocumented immigrants in Krugersdorp where food, sanitation and medical facilities would be provided.

Lukombo Kiose (46) and Clautide Kingudi (39).

Refugees however claimed that they were overcrowded and treated harshly at the centre.

When the remainder of the asylum seekers opted to live on the streets with their children and belongings, good Samaritan Sophie Williams, director of Mountain and Valleys Ministries offered shelter to the refugees in a school located on a plot in Bronkhorstspruit.

The refugees take turns to cook with firewood in an open field outside the school.

After a lengthy investigation, WITBANK NEWS with the assistance of Vosman Police Station tracked down about 70 refugees located on the plot.

The old school building in Bronkhorstspruit is remote with four rooms, two toilets and no electricity and far from healthcare facilities.

One room has been divided into sections with curtains to create privacy for the families occupying the room.

As a result, tents have been put up next to the school to provide more room for the refugees. A few kilometers from the school there is a water pipe where they source their water.

The refugees take turns cooking with firewood in a field outside the school.

They admitted to living from hand to mouth as they have very little or no food.

Williams said that she has been working with the homeless for more than ten years.

She explained she came across the refugees via a WhatsApp group, “Someone posted that these men and women were going to be jailed with their children and that touched my heart, and I knew I had to help them in every way I can. Because I had signed a lease of 20 years with the owner of the plot where the school is located, the initial plan was to open a shelter for homeless people,” she informed.

Williams also emphasised that before the refugees moved into the school, there was no water, but she made means and now the refugees have water from a borehole.

She also acknowledged that she was able to source generators to assist with electricity so that the occupants at the shelter could at least charge their phones, “When I learnt that some of the refugees would rather live on the street with their children, it was my wish that I at least help them by providing a roof over their heads and that is how I took them in,” Williams confessed.

Theresa Walu (40) is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Walu is a mother of four and a grandmother to five.

She stated that their problem as asylum seekers started in 2019 when they went to UNHCR offices in Pretoria to seek aid in 2019, “After 45 days they took us to a shelter. The living conditions there were unbearable; it was a living hell. One woman eventually passed away and three women were diagnosed with mental health issues due to the unjust living conditions we experienced,” she cried.

Walu expressed that she is grateful to Williams as she helped them with shelter.

She indicated that she fled home after she was separated from her family during the war at the tender age of 14.

“I have been running ever since, and only in 2007 I landed in South Africa. I would love to go back home, but it is not by choice that I am here, I have been abused all my life and I had no choice but to run or I would have died,” she cried.

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