South Africa – Thousands of foreigners fleeing South Africa in the aftermath of the ongoing xenophobic attacks are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, prior to and after arrival in their home countries with IOM receiving constant requests for voluntary return assistance from many different nationalities.
“We are currently assessing the numbers and needs of people who need assistance to return home and are consulting with South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs to roll out an appropriate response,” says Liselott Verduijn, IOM regional programme development officer in Pretoria. “So far, IOM has been contacted directly by hundreds of people urgently requesting such assistance.”
IOM estimates that thousands of people could need voluntary return assistance. Government authorities in Mozambique have reported that over 20,000 Mozambicans have already fled back home with many going home in buses chartered by their government. Meanwhile, about 25,000 Zimbabweans are believed to have gone to Zambia according to the Red Cross and Red Crescent with thousands others going to other Southern African countries. An IOM reception centre at Beitbridge on the border with South African and Zimbabwe has also in recent days been providing food, medical care and final transport to home communities to Zimbabweans fleeing the violence.
The attacks that began just over two weeks ago have now left 56 people dead and, according to latest figures, over 35,000 displaced people taking refuge in more than 48 sites throughout the country.
A South African bus driver at one of the refuge sites where Mozambicans are departing from, refusing to be identified for fear of reprisals by fellow South Africans, noted that the migrants were in need of a great deal of assistance. “We drop them off in Maputo, but they leave here with nothing because they lost everything. We don’t know what happens to them when we drop them. Maybe they cannot even reach their homes.”
For the many thousands who are now displaced within South Africa, conditions are difficult without food, shelter or money. With their numbers growing and their situation worsening, IOM is urgently seeking initial funding to provide basic humanitarian assistance for thousands of displaced migrants including return and reintegration assistance.
Meanwhile, IOM is working with METRO FM, South Africa’s largest urban commercial radio station, to educate the public on the dangers of xenophobia and to raise funds to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to people affected by the violence. So far, IOM has distributed 2,000 assistance packs with basic necessities including mats and blankets, and 500 infant kits.
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