South Africa: Asylum Seekers Avoid Mthata Church After Home Affairs Raids

Churches normally attended by foreigners in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, were empty on Sunday in the aftermath of Home Affairs raids on two congregations at the city's busy taxi rank. Asylum seekers in South Africa are faced with waiting times of up to two years to apply for asylum - leaving them mostly undocumented and unable to work or access education and medical services.

Congregants of the Reigners Place International Church in Mthatha stayed away from church on Sunday in the aftermath of raids by Home Affairs on 20 October.

Pastor Chris Ifeanyi said he prepared a sermon to encourage his congregants "to be strong in the Lord and positive no matter what is happening" for Sunday. "But everyone is scared now, including me," he said.

Ifeanyi was one of the asylum seekers arrested for not having their papers with them on Sunday. He was taken into custody but released when his documentation was presented to the police.

He said it was around 1 pm when home affairs officials and police officers came to his church.

"I was preaching on the pulpit when about two to three vans stopped at the church. The officials were lurking around for some minutes before...

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