South Africa: City Shelters Assist Displaced Foreign Nationals

10 September 2019

Kids playing hide and seek as their mothers do laundry, men offloading belongings from hired cars -- acts which seem ordinary but the setting - DH Williams Community Hall - dispels all normality.

The community hall is one of two which has been turned into makeshift accommodation for over 850 displaced people from Mandela Informal Settlement and Nhlapo Section in Katlehong. These are among the areas that were hit by attacks on foreign nationals in Katlehong, Ekhurhuleni, last week.

The second displacement centre is Tsholo Community Hall.

In the wake of the unrest and violence, the City of Ekurhuleni swiftly set up a Joint Operation Centre (JOC) to provide shelter for displaced people who had to abandon their homes in search of safety.

"We have accommodated different people. Here at DH Williams, the people are predominantly from Mozambique. Home Affairs is on site to assist with documentation," said the City's spokesperson for Ekurhuleni Emergency and Disaster Services, William Ntladi.

While the number of foreign nationals fluctuates with others finding alternative accommodation, the Metro noted that 588 adults and 227 children are housed at DH Williams and Tsholo Hall.

Various City departments are providing assistance such as waste removal, electricity supply and additional ablution facilities.

The City is also providing standby mobile power generators, metro police patrols and escorts for transport of the affected persons and delivery of their necessities.

Through the JOC, foreign nationals are provided with humanitarian assistance.

Processing of important documents possibly lost in last week's furore, such as passports and birth certificates, is being facilitated by Home Affairs at the sites.

Medical services are also provided by the Health Department with the assistance of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to those in need.

Doctors without Borders, Red Cross, local NGOs, churches and ordinary members of the community can be seen at the community halls offering assistance to displaced persons.

"Mostly we have been trying to support the efforts of local disaster management and local services to assist displaced people. So far, we have provided care to about 20 individuals at Tsholo Hall.

"Specific assistance provided was chronic medication to those who lost their medication when their shacks were burnt or when they were chased away from their homes," said Doctors Without Borders Deputy Country Director, Vinayak Bhardwaj.

Other assistance from donors include the provision of food, medical services, blankets, mattresses, toys for the children and sanitary material. Church services are also provided at the sites.

With law enforcement working around the clock, the City said the situation is stabilising with few incidents being reported.

Among the recently reported incidents were the shootings of three individuals at Nhlapo Section in Katlehong on Friday, 6 September. The three people have since been admitted to hospital.

The City said plans to reintegrate the affected foreign nationals back into the places from which they were displaced are already in place, as well as plans to document those who are undocumented.

Those who wish to be repatriated to their countries of origin will be repatriated with the assistance of relevant government departments.

According to Ntladi, the embassy of Zimbabwe visited Tsholo Hall on Monday which hosts the majority of displaced Zimbabweans in the area and some Malawian nationals.

"There are some Zimbabwean foreign nationals who have expressed an interest in returning home.

"The embassy of Zimbabwe was here yesterday to come and check people who need to go home. Those logistics are unfolding and we will see what is going to happen," Ntladi said.

Executive Mayor Mzwandile Masina visited the DH Williams site on Saturday to assess the situation and to assess the support provided to displaced persons.

Funds for the operation are largely being channelled from the City's emergency fund.

Ntladi said the duration of the JOC will be assessed on an ongoing basis, depending on the number and needs of displaced people.

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