Foreign nationals that were arrested for trespassing at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pretoria might be freed if the mediation process is successful.
State Prosecutor, Sipho Letsoalo, announced on Wednesday that a meditation process to secure the release of 182 refugees is expected to start this week.
A group of 78 of them appeared before court at Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services Centre. The group was divided into three groups when they made their second court appearance. Only one accused applied for legal aid while the rest of the group opted to speak for themselves.
Prosecutor Letsoalo said investigations are at an advanced stage and the state might even add more charges in relation to Section 49 of the Immigration Act and Public Violence Act.
Should the mediation process be successful, “it will not be in the interest of justice to keep the refugees in custody,” said the prosecutor.
The group is part of almost 500 refugees and asylum seekers who where removed from the UNHCR. The police said women and children were taken to Lindela Repatriation Centre.
A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Doodas Kazadi, said people who incite and commit xenophobic attacks must face the full might of the law.
Kazadi accused the South African government of failing to intervene every time xenophobic attacks flare up.
“If you go to prison to check if there are people who have been arrested for xenophobic attacks you will not find a single person. Why? I haven’t seen anyone being charged for xenophobic attacks from 2008, 2015 and 2019,” Kazadi said.
The remaining group of refugees is expected to appear before court 4 and 11 December, pending the outcome of the mediation process.