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Khulumani outrage at appaling attacks on asylum seekers in Johannesburg Central Methodist Church on Jan 30, 2008

Khulumani Support Group condemns the behaviour of those who conducted the raid on the Johannesburg Central Methodist Church on January 30, 2008 and calls on the South African government to investigate the attack and to take the strongest disciplinary measures against the officials who authorised and oversaw the violation of the human rights of both the asylum-seekers and of the church and its membership who have agreed to the use of their church building to assist asylum-seekers.

Last night members of the South African Police Service accompanied by officials of the Department of Home Affairs conducted a brutal and violent raid on the premises of the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg at around midnight, reportedly breaking down the doors of the church and violently attacking and beating up many unarmed and defenceless people who were sheltering in the church.

The minister of the church, Bishop Paul Verryn, was also assaulted in the attack. Many people reportedly had items of personal property illegally confiscated by their attackers in scenes reminiscent of the behaviour of security agents under apartheid. Most people who shelter at Central Methodist Church are asylum-seekers who have to wait for indeterminate periods of time for their applications for recognition to be processed by the Department of Home Affairs.

Khulumani Support Group condemns the behaviour of those who conducted the raid and calls on the South African government to investigate the attack and to take the strongest disciplinary measures against the officials who authorised and oversaw the violation of the human rights of both the asylum-seekers and of the church and its membership who have agreed to the use of their church building to assist asylum-seekers.

Khulumani Support Group expresses deep regret for the manner in which the victims of this hostile attack were treated by officials of its government, given the reality that they have fled political persecution and human rights violations in their own country only to find themselves brutalised by the agencies tasked with providing for their safety and security. We are ashamed of this behaviour.

Khulumani will be lodging a complaint in this matter with the South African Human Rights Commission and supports the call of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to accept the request of the African Union's African Commission on Human and People's Rights for its Special Rapporteur on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, to visit South Africa to investigate the treatment of Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa.

For comment, please call Dr Marjorie Jobson on 082 268 0223

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