CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape High Court on Monday granted an interim relief order to the City of Cape Town, allowing it to start enforcing its by-laws regarding a group of refugees who have been camping outside the Central Methodist Church for months.
Handed down by Judge Daniel Thulare during the court appearance of asylum seeker Jean-Pierre Balous, 39, the order stipulated that the city was to provide a suitable venue for the department of home affairs to process the refugees, and that the city should assist those in distress.
The judge said that the city could start enforcing its by-laws within seven days of setting up the logistics for the verification process.
The order does not include those living inside the church.
Should the refugees not comply with the order, the city could again approach the court for a contempt order or relief.
Group leader Balous was arrested on New Year's Day on eight charges of assault, including five of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. He was later granted bail of R2 000.
The arrest followed tension between the refugees, who appeared to have split into two factions since seeking shelter at the church last year. The area surrounding the church and into the CBD is littered with filth, and businesses and residents have complained of being harassed by some of the refugees.
More than 600 foreign nationals sought refuge in the church after police forcefully dispersed a sit-in protest near the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in October.
The refugees wanted to be sent to other countries, including Canada, claiming they were not safe against xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
The city said it welcomed the order.
"We are relieved that the court has recognised the need for municipalities to be able to enforce by-laws to ensure proper functioning," it said in a statement following the order.
"The city will now set about liaising with the department of home affairs and other interested and affected government agencies to get the verification process underway as soon as possible. We have, prior to today’s ruling, indicated our willingness to assist in this regard."
African News Agency