UNHCR alarm at recent anti-foreigner violence in South Africa

By | 5 September 2018

Refugees pick through discarded papers at a shelter in Johannesburg, South Africa. August 2008 © UNHCR/James Oatway

04 September 2018: This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley  to whom quoted text may be attributed  at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is extremely concerned at recent xenophobic violence in South Africa. Those targeted have included refugees and asylum-seekers.   

Reportedly four people were killed in the Soweto area of Johannesburg in attacks by angry protestors last week, while many others were affected by earlier rounds of violence. Mobs looted and destroyed property belonging to foreign nationals. Tensions have also been observed recently in KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape Provinces.

UNHCR is calling on the authorities to ensure that those responsible for acts of violence and violations of human rights are brought to account. We urge all possible efforts to avert future attacks, including incitement or attempts to block peaceful solutions. If unchecked, such xenophobic attacks could lead to further damage and destruction. 

UNHCR is meanwhile supporting efforts by the government to assist people who have been displaced or affected by displacement.

Over the past few days, UNHCR staff have visited refugees and asylum-seekers affected by the recent violence in Soweto to assess their situation and needs. Many foreign shop owners have been affected by the violence and their small shops – often their only means of livelihoods – have been looted and destroyed.

UNHCR welcomes the public expressions by many South Africans calling for peaceful coexistence and harmony with foreign nationals. And we call for urgent action by the government and civil society to prevent reoccurring violence against foreign nationals in South Africa.

South Africa currently hosts some 280,027 refugees and asylum-seekers.

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