South Africa police unit has been condemned by human rights group for using excessive force on refugees on Wednesday.
Protesting refugees and other foreign nationals clashed with the police in the streets of Cape Town on Wednesday.
The foreign nationals had been camping outside the UNHCR offices in Cape Town and Pretoria for weeks demanding for better protection.
They claimed they did not feel safe in South Africa following the wave of xenophobic attacks on foreigners.
The refugees come from Burundi, Congo, Malawi, Ethiopia and Somalia. They say since the attacks on foreign nationals weeks ago many of them have been physically abused.
But the attempt to stop the protest and the continued agitation by these refugees resulted in the use of force by the police.
Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa said “The use of rubber bullets and stun grenades was unnecessary and clearly exacerbated the situation.
In addition, we are concerned that these methods were used while there were children present, and that this may have caused trauma and injury to them.
The authorities are the duty bearers and must urgently find alternative, and safer, ways of dealing with crowds.”
Amnesty International asked that the South African authorities and the UNHCR work urgently to resolve the concerns of the refugees.
“The current asylum management process system is failing everyone and standoffs like today’s are a direct consequence of this.
In persisting with a broken system, the government leaves those trying to claim asylum undocumented and vulnerable to harassment, arrest and detention,” said Mohamed.
He adds that the refugees “cannot work, they cannot access education or healthcare. They are living in limbo and they are desperate.”
Xenophobic attacks have been rampant in recent years in South Africa.
In the past couple of months, many foreigners, mostly Africans, were targeted in the latest wave of xenophobia attacks.
It forced countries like Nigeria to evacuate their nationals from South Africa.