Refugees want out of SA

Hundreds of foreigners in Cape Town are begging the UNHCR to help them leave South Africa urgently.

CAPE TOWN - Refugees and asylum seekers are begging the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help them leave South Africa urgently.

Refugee leader Jean Pierre Balous said repatriation to their countries of origin is not an option because they fled oppressive regimes.

“It’s possible to be resettled in a third country. That is the mandate of the UNHCR -- to protect people whose lives are in danger," he said.

READ: Refugees camp outside UN offices, ask to leave SA

Meanwhile, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it would not press charges against foreigners who attacked an archbishop and several others at a church in Cape Town on Friday.

The foreigners -- many of whom also claim to be asylum-seekers -- had sought refuge at the church after they were evicted from a similar sit-in protest at a building hosting the UNHCR in Cape Town.     

They turned violent after they were told to leave.

READ: SAHRC condemns 'violent attack' at church sheltering foreigners

I asked the police not to intervene," said SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen.

"We want to leave the door open for negotiations and dialogue."

The church was calm on Saturday, with some of the occupants slowly packing their belongings, said an AFP reporter.Meanwhile, 

READ: More than 180 asylum-seekers held on trespassing charges

In Pretoria, police detained more than 180 foreign nationals for storming the UN refugee agency where they had been staging a sit-in protest.

"182 men and one woman were taken into custody by the police at different police stations," said provincial police spokeswoman Mathapelo Peters in a statement.

They were being held on trespassing charges and were expected to appear before the Pretoria magistrate's court on Monday.

- Additional reporting AFP