Women’s refugee shelter, Musina, Diocese of Tzaneen

Women’s refugee shelter, Musina, Diocese of Tzaneen

The SACBC AIDS Office and the  Kurisanani  Programme of the Diocese of Tzaneen visited the women’s refugee shelter housed in the old church in Musina, and serving mainly Congolese and Zimbabwean women who have crossed the Limpopo River in search of asylum in South Africa. 29 000 people passed through the shelter in 2011.

Sr Rudo (Holy Cross sister) a Zimbabwean and a social worker, described how people are helped to get papers to be in South Africa legally for 3 or 6 months, and referred to the local hospital if they are sick and/or in need of ART. Some women are raped in their attempts to cross South Africa, often by the people claiming to assist them.

People are intent on moving south, and sometimes get work on farms. Approximately 300 Zimbabweans cross the border weekly, some of them for a second or third time after having been repatriated.  Some asylum seekers enter South Africa via Mozambique.

The women are provided with one meal a day, and are usually expected to stay no more than two or three days.  Some stay longer after delivering babies or because they are sick.  Conditions at the shelter are very basic, and apart from occasional “piece” or casual jobs locally there is no incentive for them to stay.

UNHCR and Doctors without Borders provide some  assistance to the shelter. IOM assists with repatriations. Catholic Relief Services has provided food, and hygiene kits, beds and mattresses, and other funding has also assisted with the running of the shelter.

Musina is expected to provide the biggest refugee office in South Africa, processing applications for asylum at the border rather than further south.