South Africa raids church sanctuary for Zimbabwean refugees

South African police raided the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg, which was serving as a sanctuary for some 1,000 Zimbabwean refugees, arresting scores of suspected “illegal immigrants” Jan. 31. Bishop Paul Verryn accused the police of using excessive force on refugees and church workers in the midnight raid: “They did not have a warrant,” Verryn told SABC. “They have pushed me around and treated us despicably.” He said the refugees “ran in terror” as police “came military-style and…turned the church upside-down… They have kicked down doors, they’ve broken a window, they assaulted people. They manhandled me. I mean, they just treated us as if we’re animals.” He called the police action “appalling” and “despicable.”

The raids follow a media campaign portraying the Zimbabweans seeking shelter in South Africa as a criminal element that steals low-paying jobs. (Reuetrs, CNN, AFP, Jan. 31)

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