Wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa: Urgent need for a political response

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) condemns the wave of xenophobic violence accross South Africa, which has reportedly so far lead to the death of more than 20 people.

On 11 May, violent attacks erupted in the township of Alexandra, North of Johannesburg, targeting foreigners from neighbouring countries, mainly Zimbabweans and Mozambicans, before spreading across the Gauteng Province. This violence against foreign nationals, accused by many South Africans of being responsible for social ills and crimes, has forced at least 6000 people to seek refuge in churches or police stations, fleeing gunfire, arson and even rape.

"We are deeply concerned by the brutality of this violence. The South African authorities should take urgent steps to put an end to this murderous wave of xenophobic violence. They should take all necessary measures to ensure that all individuals responsible for murder, rape and other forms of violence are brought to justice", said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

According to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a constitutionally mandated institution, these attacks are the result of the government’s failure to take the threat of widespread xenophobia seriously. These concerns echo those raised in FIDH’s recent fact-finding mission report on the situation of migrants in South Africa, «Surplus People? Undocumented and other vulnerable migrants in South Africa». FIDH documented serious human rights violations faced by migrants as a result of the South African migration policy geared towards security concerns and population control.

Today, FIDH reiterates its recommendations to the South Africa’s authorities, urging them to reinforce their human-rights-based legal framework in order to prevent and violations against migrant persons and provide redress to victims. FIDH urges them to provide widespread training on migrant’s rights and against xenophobia to police services, immigration services, public health and education services and local administrations. South Africa also needs to develop research and public education on migration in South Africa.

FIDH raised the situation of migrants in South Africa during the public sessions of the 43rd ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ (ACHPR), held in Ezulwini, Swaziland in May 2008. FIDH calls on the ACHPR to adopt an urgent resolution to condemn this crisis situation and to provide its Special Rapporteur on Refugees and Displaced Persons in Africa with all the necessary means to conduct an investigation mission in South Africa, within the framework of his mandate.

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