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South Africa evicts asylum seekers camped outside UN office | Migration News

South African police have evicted over 100 asylum seekers who had been camping outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) offices in Pretoria for three years. The asylum seekers had pitched makeshift tents outside the offices following a spate of xenophobic violence in 2019 and were requesting relocation to other countries. The Pretoria municipality secured a high court order to remove the asylum seekers, who will now be taken to the Lindela Repatriation Centre, a temporary holding centre for undocumented migrants who are earmarked for deportation to their countries of origin. South Africa is a magnet for economic migrants and refugees but sees sporadic outbursts of xenophobic violence, led by right-wing parties and anti-migration militia like Operation Dudula. While South Africa has some of the world’s most progressive asylum policies, allowing foreigners to apply for refugee status and work, human rights groups warn that the application processes are flawed and backlogged, leaving asylum seekers in limbo for years. UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Padoan said the agency had urged the authorities carrying out the evictions to do so “peacefully and that families are treated humanely, with dignity and respect”. However, she made clear that the UN agency did not have a mandate to transport the asylum seekers to another country.

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