Archbishop Thabo Makgoba hit in South Africa church refuge scuffle

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Image caption,
Many refused to leave the overcrowded church after the scuffle broke out

The Archbishop of Cape Town has been injured during scuffles at a church sheltering hundreds of migrants demanding relocation from South Africa.

Thabo Makgoba, and others in the delegation, were attacked by the foreigners after they asked them to leave the church as it was overcrowded.

The foreign nationals are mostly from other African countries.

They were forcibly evicted two weeks ago from the offices of the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) in Cape Town.

They had been staging a sit-in there demanding that they be resettled and given refugee status in another country as they did not feel safe in South Africa. The country was recently hit by a wave of xenophobic violence.

A visibly angry man, JP Balous, speaking on behalf of the refugees told a local news channel that they have "been treated like rubbish".

"We are human beings, we came here to seek refuge... The human rights commission is actually the human rights abuse in South Africa," he said.

Another group of refugees, who have been camping outside the UNHCR's offices in the capital, Pretoria, since the start of October, are now facing a charge of trespassing.

'A desperate situation'

Footage aired by broadcaster eNCA shows the fight breaking out in Cape Town's Methodist Church. South Africa's Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen is also seen being attacked:

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Witnesses inside the church say a Congolese clergyman speaking on stage had the microphone ripped out of his hands and was then beaten up by the angry crowd.

"He says he became the [focal] point of anger," Archbishop Makgoba told eNCA. "And they started throwing papers at me when I was trying to calm them down." Footage shows a wad of paper hitting him in the head.

"One doesn't expect violence to break out at a sanctuary," the archbishop told TimesLive. "We are dealing with a human issue here, a desperate situation."

Archbishop Makgoba nonetheless tried to find the humour in the situation, telling TimesLive: "At least my wife likes the tiny injury on my forehead. She calls it a dimple."

The Refugee Alliance for Justice has called for the department of Home Affairs to intervene.

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