Nearly three years after the xenophobic violence in South African townships, some foreigners are still living in what was meant to be temporary shelters because they are afraid of going back to their former communities.
Two groups of refugees -- one near the De Deur police station in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, and the other at the Rural Institute for Education and Training (Riet) family guidance centre in Randfontein -- seem to have slipped through the cracks. The Gauteng department of social development said all camps it was responsible for had been closed down.
Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Alphonse Munyaneza said this week that it would help to "reintegrate" them back into communities.
The groups were initially housed at a camp in Akasia, Pretoria, and 10 months later (in 2009) were moved to the shelters in Orange Farm and Randfontein, which were paid for by the UNHCR for two months until the refugees could find alternative accommodation.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian outside the Riet centre, a large, well-kept building with tight security, Abdul Ahli from Somalia said he feared for his life if he returned to the townships.
"I am a human being. I don't want to die in South Africa. I don't want to be killed by someone who doesn't even know my language," he said.
Ahli owned a spaza shop in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, before the xenophobic attacks broke out. He escaped but said: "Look here, they burnt my leg," pointing to a dark scar on his left foot.
Ahli is one of 61 refugees still living at the centre. Normally, the centre houses abused women and children.
Ivan Kortje, the centre's manager, tried to have them evicted but the group obtained a court order prohibiting him from carrying this out. He said this week that the centre was now overcrowded and he had to pay high water and electricity bills. "I will never help xenophobia victims again," he said. Kortje's attorney, Tashya Giyapersad, said: "They are claiming to be refugees but they are not. They are moving in and out freely and some of them are earning money. These people are not disenfranchised". (From the Mail and Guardian)