As many of you know Access to Justice and ADR Network SA have been involved in assisting a group of refugees displaced in the attacks in April. Our initial involvement was to instruct attorneys to assist in securing their release from jail after they were arrested in the wake of the closure of the Chatsworth refugee camp.

This particular group had refused to leave since they felt they could neither accept an offer of repatriation, nor could they accept an offer of re-integration. They felt, with what I have learned, good reason that their lives were in danger in their home countries and they had obviously not been kept safe in the place where they sought refuge: our country

A significant component in securing their release was having somewhere to go. That somewhere was Hope Farm and the story has been widely published across SA and also elsewhere. This was an emergency situation. Desperate adults were being arrested and their terrified children were being removed from them.

As we saw things initially, Hope Farm would be a very transitional space of refuge and also a place for those willing to assist in identifying solutions to go and consult with the group.

Over the past months we have been involved in mobilizing legal teams to ward off attacks from outside the gates in the form of prosecution of the owners, threats of removal of the children and threats of further arrest

We have also been involved in various other forms of dispute resolution process, the myriad of which is complex to unpack but can, I am sure, be well-imagined by all

But the world has changed since the beginning of July when the group was released from jail, re-united with their children and moved to Hope Farm. In subsequent weeks we saw literally thousands of desperate Syrian Refugees traversing the ocean to try to get to safety in Europe. The lifeless body of a Syrian toddler on a beach literally broke the heart of humanity and it seemed that for a time, the world had become a kinder place to refugees.

In recent weeks, Paris has been attacked and a state of emergency declared. It seems the attackers have tried to “frame” Syrian refugees as the perpetrators. Notwithstanding that if one really thought things through one would question the plausibility of bomb proof passports, in addition to reports that all the attackers were French Citizens, I understand of Algerian descent. And French history with Algeria contains its own painful complexities.

Be that all as it may, my message today is this: the world has once again become hostile to refugees.

We are under immense pressure to find a solution for a desperately traumatized group. And to tell you the God-honest truth, right now I have absolutely no idea what to do.

We have done our utmost to ward off legal attacks, we have done our utmost to keep the peace within, we have worked to gain insight into the resettlement process and if statistics I have come across are anything to go by, the average time it has taken to resettle refugees in third counties worldwide over past generations is eighteen years.

Right now we need a miracle.

The thing is, I happen to believe in miracles.

As always, Peace

Sheena Jonker

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