eMzantsi Ubuntu Coalition, 1 June 2008

Soetwater latest

There are around 3500 people living in about 10 giant tents across two camps on the end of our peninsula, exposed to the worst of every cold front coming in.

The tents are all freezing and wet and smelling of damp now, the children are getting sick, the women are getting desperate and the men are getting angry. It's been over a week with no word from government about what's going to happen to them. Absolutely no one in authority has had the decency to come and talk with the elected refugee leadership committee and share ideas about a solution.

Please understand: the vast majority of the refugees believe they are going to die - either if they go back to the war-ravaged areas of DRC, Zim or Somalia they escaped from, or if they return to the townships that hate and abuse them. Many of them fully expect the government to turn up any minute and shoot them all - this has happened in refugee camps in their own experience. There is serious discussion of desperate measures such as burning and suicide to get the outside world's attention - the leadership are struggling to convince their people to stay patient and united.

The staff of the camp, most of whom are volunteers, are doing an amazing job, but they should not be expected to be able to deal with the possible effects of this extended trauma on top of the violence the refugees have already been through. This is a job for the UN - only they have the experience and the trained staff (and the budget for heated tents).

Ocean View Muslims, under the exceptional leadership of their imams, have been cooking halaal food for 2000 Somalians three times a day - the city only started to contribute 2 days ago. This is not remotely reasonable or sustainable. WHERE IS THE GOVERNMENT?? So far, the Mayor, the Premier and the Deputy President have swept in and out in big cars, with no results.

People of the south peninsula must stand up in support of the people of the camp - both the refugees and the volunteer staff - and say enough is enough. We must insist that the government hands management of this situation over to the UN. Both in terms of their physical and mental health, the risks are now too great to do otherwise. There will be death in the camp soon, from disease or violence, unless the politicians stop squabbling and start acting NOW.

Please see reports on the blog from Dee Smythe, human rights lawyer from Kommetjie, and Candi Horgan from Art of Living's YLTP team, with more insights on life inside the camp.

See: http://emuc.ilocals.info/

Thanks for listening,
Sam Pearce, eMzantsi Ubuntu Coalition

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