'Special deal on cards for Zim refugees in SA'

The government is looking at granting special status to Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa that will allow them to reside and work in the country legally.

“It’s a proposal that’s on the table ... a proposal we are looking at. From a Home Affairs point of view, it’s clear we need to do something,” ministry spokesperson Siobhan McCarthy told Sapa on Tuesday.

She said the proposal needed “the support of other government departments, especially Treasury”, but was reluctant to put any time frame on the process.

There are an estimated three million Zimbabweans in South Africa.

McCarthy was responding to questions on a report that South Africa is planning to ease its immigration rules for Zimbabweans.

Temporary measures in place
Meanwhile, the City of Johannesburg has put in place measures to deal with the growing number of refugees in the vicinity of the Central Methodist Church, the city said on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said the city would provide temporary accommodation, temporary toilets, regular health inspections, continuous cleaning of the area and additional security.

“Lasting solutions will only be found through the coordinated efforts of national, provincial and local government.
The city has been engaging with the church and the business community since the latter part of 2008 when the number of refugees started to increase,” he said.

Tugwana said the city’s health department made regular inspections of the church premises, and also fumigated and took other preventative measures.

He said the city held meetings with the Bishop Paul Verryn from the Methodist Church in January.

“The bishop requested assistance with emergency accommodation for refugees. The city indicated that it could make a building available for lease to the Methodist Church, subject to a series of conditions on the management of the building and of the existing church premises,” he said.

The lease was being prepared but the immediate challenge was the refurbishment of the building, which had budget implications.

Some of the measures the city had put into place was to provide toilets, regular health inspections, fumigation and the daily cleaning of the streets.

The city would erect fences by this week to ensure continued access to the church and to minimise the impact on business.

Additional security, trade restrictions, and tightening of house rules would be implemented.

“In addition the city is working to appoint at least 40 marshals to assist with control of the crowds, and to assist with the registration, management and movement of people into the precinct.

“The city appreciates the impact of the situation on business activities in the areas and is working closely with the business sector to manage it,” said Tugwana.

A meeting to discuss an intergovernmental response to the refugee crisis at the church will be held on Wednesday at the office of local government minister Qedani Mahlangu.—Sapa

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