Spate of deadly xenophobic violence in South Africa draws UN concern

UNHCR staff meet with displaced people at a site near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Photo: UNHCR/T. Machobane

17 April 2015 – The United Nations refugee agency has today welcomed efforts by South Africa’s Government to contain a recent wave of xenophobic violence that has accounted for the deaths of six people in the past three weeks in South Africa.

However, Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the agency remains concerned about the attacks, which have also led to displacement of more than 5,000 foreigners, some of whom included refugees and asylum-seekers.

“The attacks in KwaZulu-Natal province began in late March following an apparent labour dispute involving South African and foreign workers and the latest population movements came on top of displacement that had taken place in January as a result of similar incidents in Soweto, near Johannesburg in Gauteng province,” said Mr. Edwards.

“South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma told parliamentarians on 16 April that refugees and asylum-seekers would be accorded support in line with international law and protocols, with the support of the UNHCR,” he added.

Yesterday, during the daily briefing ay UN Headquarters in New York by the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, questions were raised about the incident, to which Stéphane Dujarric replied that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) remains concerned about such incidents.

Such attacks date back as far as 2008, he said, in communities that are poor, marginalized and in situations of vulnerability.

Mr. Dujarric said the Human Rights Commissioner’s Office encouraged the South African Government to accelerate enactment of legislation against hate crimes, to hold those responsible for acts of violence and violations of human rights accountable and to formulate future policy responses to the situation of migrants that conform to international standards.


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