UNHCR deeply concerned by resurgence of xenophobic violence in Soweto

Pretoria, South Africa, 2 March 2015 (UNHCR) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is deeply concerned by the resurgence of xenophobic violence in Soweto, less than a month after refugees and foreign nationals fled the township. UNHCR is also concerned about the numerous and on-going attacks on refugees and foreign nationals in other parts of the country, including the Western Cape, North West and Mpumalanga.

“We once again call on Government and urge law enforcement agencies to maintain their presence in these volatile areas and to protect refugees and foreign nationals,” said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Southern Africa.

UNHCR commends the response made by the South African authorities and the South African Police Services to try to contain the violence and looting, to date and encourages them to continue with their efforts to restore peace in the affected areas.

UNHCR welcomes the statement by the Minister of Small Business Development made last week confirming that all people living in South Africa are entitled to the full protection of the law and reaffirming that in terms of the constitution, asylum seekers and refugees can establish and conduct businesses. The Task Team she has established is definitely a step in the right direction and we hope that this issue can be addressed appropriately.

UNHCR further cautions refugees and foreign traders to abide by the laws governing the country and refrain from trying to take the law into their own hands.

In January refugees and foreign nationals were forced to flee their homes and abandon livelihoods which were looted and destroyed in a wave of xenophobic violence by individuals with whom they live and work.