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SA not asked to help with refugee crisis: Home affairs

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South Africa has not yet been asked to provide help during the European refugee crisis, the Department of Home Affairs said on Monday.

Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the country helped through its contributions to various United Nations agencies, but so far had not been approached by individuals or any of the European countries caught up in the crisis.

Earlier, New Zealand announced it would accept 150 refugees over the next three years and France and Germany said they would take 55 000 refugees.

The UN High Commission for Refugees has also praised the decision of Austria and Germany to receive thousands of refugees and migrants who crossed the border from Hungary on Saturday, saying it was “political leadership based on humanitarian values”.

Tshwete said if there were requests from refugees seeking to come to South Africa, they would have to be in line with existing asylum seeker laws and documentation.

“South Africa already sees the highest amount of asylum seekers in the world as one country. Having a good human heart is important, but having the capacity and resources to process and deal with humanitarian efforts is important.”

If a South African family wants to take in a refugee family, as many are doing in Europe, it has to be done legally with the refugee or asylum seeker making a proper application.

Tshwete said this prevented abuse, besides helping the government plan accordingly.

“In this context of humanitarian efforts, not all people are good. Some people see a labour force they can exploit.”

‘I’m so proud of South Africa’

Gift of the Givers head Imtiaz Sooliman, who has helped establish two hospitals in Syria, said the war there was like nothing he had ever seen.

He described it as “the silent war” because of the dearth of journalists and international aid agencies normally associated with strife-torn regions.

“The exodus is nothing new. I am happy the world is finally taking notice.”

He said South Africans had dug deep for the two hospitals in the war-torn country, one established in 2013, and another built by the Turkish Red Crescent in conjunction with Gift of the Givers.

“I’m so proud of South Africa,” said Sooliman.

The hospitals sometimes have to function with bombs falling on buildings around them.

The first hospital was established with the help of South African doctors, but both are now staffed by local doctors to overcome problems with permits and language.

Over the past two years, they have helped around 300 000 patients.

“We are fortunate to have saved many lives in that hospital. When people see the hospital, they collapse out of shock that South Africa is supporting it. It is the best facility in the entire country.” News24

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