SAHRC condemns 'violent attack' at church sheltering foreigners

The UN High Commission says it will continue to engage in dialogue with government to find a solution to help refugees in the country. 

CAPE TOWN - Pandemonium.

That's how Pastor Alan Storey described the scene at the Methodist Church in Cape Town after an Anglican archbishop and several others were injured in scuffles where hundreds of foreigners had sought shelter.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, was among a group of clergymen and human rights officials who were trying to address the foreigners, many of whom claim to be asylum-seekers.

Storey said he had asked them to vacate the church because "it is completely overcrowded, it’s not a safe environment. If there was a fire we would be left with people dead."

READ: Scuffle breaks out at Methodist Church housing refugees

But the situation deteriorated when Storey handed the microphone to a Congolese clergyman who was due to address the crowd.

The Congolese priest was greeted with howls of protest before a woman climbed onto the stage and grabbed the microphone from him. Then a group of people started slapping and punching him. 

"Then the others came for us," Chris Nissen, a senior official at South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), told AFP. 

"To attack the archbishop is not only criminal, it's not only disrespectful but it's also ungrateful," said Nissen, who was also injured.

More than half a dozen people received head and face injuries and had to go to hospital for X-rays, said another rights official.

READ: Refugees seek shelter at Cape church after violent clashes with police

Storey described the scene as "pandemonium", adding: "The whole delegation was attacked".

The SAHRC condemned "the violent attack and assault" and called on the police to arrest the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, refugees who've been camping at the UN Refugee Agency's offices in Pretoria for weeks have now been removed.

It happened during a joint operation that included police and Home Affairs.

READ: Refugees in standoff with authorities at Pretoria UN office

The refugees have now been taken to various police stations.

They were demanding the UNHCR help them move to other countries following xenophobic violence here.

- Additional reporting eNCA

Refugees who've been camping at the UN Refugee Agency's offices in Pretoria for weeks, have now been removed.