The international relief organization Medecins Sans Frontières has protested the decision by South African authorities to close down a refugee reception area in the border town of Musina where thousands of Zimbabweans initially seeking treatment for cholera have settled.
The Department of Home Affairs said it would halt refugee processing operations Friday and ordered all those living on the municipal showgrounds in Musina to clear the area.
Officials warned that all improvised shelters would be demolished, putting many refugees and asylum-seekers without proper immigration documents at risk of arrest. Between 3,000 and 4,000 Zimbabweans have congregated on the site in recent months, many having fled the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe to seek treatment in South Africa's Limpopo province.
Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) called the move inhumane. "This ill-conceived decision by South African authorities will place Zimbabweans seeking refuge in South Africa at incredible risk - especially considering that many have serious illnesses, including HIV and tuberculosis," MSF Head of Mission Rachel Cohen said.
MSF Programs Director Jonathan Whittall told VOA reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye that clearing the Musina showgrounds will deprive thousands of Zimbabweans of food, shelter and medical care while their asylum requests are being processed.