Pretoria, South Africa, 10 April 2015 (UNHCR) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is deeply concerned by the continued outbreaks of xenophobia that have been occurring around the country, especially those in Durban which have led to the displacement of many foreign families, including refugees and asylum seekers and welcomes the increased response from Government to address the issue.
UNHCR staff and partners have been receiving reports from refugees all around the country that they are afraid to go about their daily lives for fear of being attacked. One foreign national employed as a doctor in Western Cape province told UNHCR officials that he was afraid to go to work in case something may happen to him.
“We welcome the public statements made by the President and senior government officials calling for an end to attacks on foreigners, including refugees and asylum seekers, said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Southern Africa.
UNHCR is glad to see the increased police presence and the efforts being made 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’s partners in Durban, Refugee Social Services and Lawyers for Human Rights, have been working with local authorities to ensure that assistance and services are provided to those displaced. UNHCR has also dispatched an assessment mission to Durban today.
“The vast majority of refugees and asylum seekers on arrival in the country present themselves to the authorities and are given documents that allow them to stay legally in the country. To lump them in the category of illegal migrants and or unlawful residents, is not only incorrect but serves to stigmatize them rather than to acknowledge that the circumstances of their plight requires that they be protected,” adds Nkweta-Salami.
Following the events earlier this year in Soweto, UNHCR together with its civil society partners have been raising our concerns with the government in a number of fora.
UNHCR further urges refugees and foreign traders to abide by the laws governing the country and refrain from trying to take the law into their own hands.
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