IOM Launches Counter-Xenophobia Programme

12 September 2008 | Uncategorized

In response to the recent rise in xenophobia-related incidents in South Africa, IOM has launched a new two-year programme to promote tolerance, integration and diversity in the country.

The programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented through the Forced Migration Studies Programme (FMSP) of the University of the Witwatersrand, has kicked off with a baseline assessment aimed at understanding the root causes of xenophobic attitudes. This assessment will inform other medium-term and long-term strategic interventions.

“While migration towards South Africa is increasing, the country is simultaneously experiencing an upsurge in xenophobic tendencies and attacks,” says Yukiko Kumashiro, IOM Pretoria’s Programme Development Officer.

“In May 2008 we witnessed unprecedented simultaneous violent attacks against migrants in several townships over a period of weeks, which left about 60 people dead and tens of thousands internally displaced,” she adds.

The South African government set up temporary shelter sites to house thousands of foreign nationals displaced by the May violence and is now in the process of closing down the sites in a bid to fully reintegrate the migrants in their local communities.

“IOM’s baseline assessment, which is expected in November, will play an important role in understanding the root causes of resentment towards foreigners. This is something that must be taken into account during the reintegration process,” Kumashiro explains.

IOM will also launch an awareness raising campaign to combat xenophobia in October 2008, with funding from the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

The campaign will be run in partnership with the international advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi and South Africa’s largest urban commercial radio station, METRO FM, a platform of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

IOM is now seeking US$ 1.5 million in additional funding to ensure the sustainability of the programme, and to implement the two remaining components – human rights training for government and public officials, and the establishment of a coordinated response mechanism.

“Many law enforcement, immigration, health and social welfare officials are not sufficiently aware of migrants’ rights and entitlements, as stipulated under the South African Constitution and Immigration Act. As a result migrants are commonly denied services that they are entitled to,” says Kumashiro.

Meanwhile, IOM is consulting with other UN agencies towards joint efforts to combat xenophobia in South Africa.

For more information, please contact Yukiko Kumashiro at IOM Pretoria, Tel: +27 12 342 2789, Email: ykumashiro@iom.int.