28 Jun 2018

Xenophobia, services protests link / Marvin Charles / Cape Argus

Xenophobia, services protests link / Marvin Charles / Cape Argus
28 June 2018

Immigrants and asylum seekers living in informal settlements are more at risk of xenophobic attacks. A recent study by the African Centre for Migration and Society has found that xenophobic attacks occur more frequently in townships and areas where access to basic infrastructure, such as water and electricity, is limited. “Part of the problem we are sitting with is the fact that the state appears to be in denial about the magnitude and severity of this problem,” said Popo Mfubu, an attorney at the Refugee Rights Unit at the University of Cape Town. He said officials were always loath to admit that xenophobic attacks took place.

“In 2010 the SA Human Rights Commission released a report on the 2008 xenophobic violence, and made very extensive recommendations on how to tackle xenophobia. But very few, if any, of those recommendations were followed,” he said.

In recent months across the province refugee shop owners have been forced to flee in areas such as Vrygrond, Hermanus and Klapmuts after their shops were looted, and some were attacked.Mfubu said it was a fact that the violence was linked to xenophobia.

“What we do know as a fact about xenophobic violence is that there is a clear link between service delivery protests and incidents of xenophobic violence. When South Africans are unhappy with the state, they turn on refugees and other foreign migrants living in their communities,” he said. Since 2008, more than 400 immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have lost their lives in xenophobic violence across South Africa. The Department of Home Affairs estimates that there are 200000 asylum seekers in the country, with 90 000 holding refugee status. Migration to South Africa occurs for various reasons, such as the pursuit of economic prospects, the fear of persecution in home countries and the need to escape war zones.

“We need to be aware of the micro-aggression, the tensions, attitudes and beliefs that could be xenophobic, so I believe much more needs to be done to promote social cohesion,” said Marike Keller, a policy development and advocacy specialist at Sonke Gender Justice.

A dialogue was held on Tuesday night by The Centre for Conflict Resolution on xenophobia. The public dialogue aims to explore innovative solutions to prevent xenophobia and xenophobic violence from occurring in South Africa.

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