South Africa: SAPS Management Pleased With Police's Tactical Response to Violent Resistance By Protesters At UNHCR Regional Offices

press release

In rounding up the integrated operation emanating from a case of trespassing that was opened at Brooklyn SAPS on 14 November 2019 after a group of about 500 refugees, including women with children, gained access illegally onto the premises of the regional offices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Gauteng Provincial Commissioner of police, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela has commended the manner in which police and officers from other law enforcement agencies, responded to violent resistance from the alleged trespassers.

Police on Friday morning, 15 November 2019, arrived at the regional offices of the UNHCR with the intention of effecting arrests as per the trespassing case opened the previous day.

As soon as police gained access to the property, the group started attacking the members while the women in the group were carrying babies on their backs and sides, making it difficult for police to react.

Instead of retaliating, Police weighed options in terms of appropriate tactics for crowd management. Water cannons were deployed and police were during that short space, able to apply tactics that ultimately ensured minimum injuries.

Twenty four (24) police officers were injured, including six (6) who had to be rushed to hospital as they had sustained more serious injuries after the group attacked police with rocks, buckets, and other objects, including dangerous weapons that police confiscated. The six officers were discharged from hospital within hours after receiving medical attention.

To this end, all alleged trespassers have been removed from the yard of the UNHCR. One hundred and eighty two (182) men and one woman were taken into custody by the police at different police stations, while two hundred and twenty four (224) women, some of whom are pregnant, one hundred and sixty nine (169) children, and seven (7) men were bused to Lindela Repatriation Centre as a temporary accommodation pending conclusion of the verification process by the Department of Home Affairs.

The 182 men and one woman are expected to appear before the Pretoria Magistrate Court on Monday, 18 November 2019, on charges of trespassing.

While commending the situational appropriate tactics applied by the police during the operation, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela also extended a word of appreciation to the respective members of the UNHCR Refugees Priority Committee led by the Office of the Premier, the SAPS and Provincial Disaster Management, for ensuring that the operation was successful and was concluded with minimum incidents.

"Lawlessness will never be tolerated by the SAPS, not under any circumstances. There are systems and processes in place which must be followed by anyone who wishes to raise a grievance. Those who are found to be undermining the law and authority of the State, will be arrested and will face the full might of the law," warned the Provincial Commissioner.

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