The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is deeply concerned about the recent attacks against foreign nationals, including refugees and asylum seekers, in some parts of South Africa. UNHCR condemns the attacks and is committed to supporting the South African Government in its prevention and response efforts. The Government of South Africa has consistently communicated its position and efforts as follows, and UNHCR support these messages and welcomes the actions taken:
1) The Government is doing everything in its power to contain the attacks, to assist people who have been affected and to protect all foreign nationals.
2) President Jacob Zuma has created an Inter-Ministerial task force to address the spate of attacks against foreigners and directed the Police and Home Affairs officials to work with local officials to stop the attacks and enforce the Law.
3) Over 300 arrests have already been made and special courts will be set up, as during the 2010 World Cup, to administer justice quickly and effectively.
4) The Government will be embarking on a social cohesion campaign over the next two weeks to hold community dialogues in an effort to prevent further outbreaks of violence.
Over the past few weeks, refugees and asylum seekers have frequently asked questions related to possible return to their countries of origin, security and reintegration into communities in South Africa, and resettlement to third countries. UNHCR has responded consistently to these questions and wishes to reiterate its positions as follows:
* Voluntary Repatriation: UNHCR will assist all refugees who would like to return to their countries of origin provided that such return can take place in conditions of safety. The decision must be voluntary. UNHCR and its Partners are prepared to share information with candidates for repatriation to assist them to make an informed decision. UNHCR will not facilitate return to places it considers unsafe.
* Resettlement: Resettlement will not be considered during situations of displacement.
The priority for UNHCR and Partners is to support the Government with responses to the immediate needs of the affected persons, including safety and material well-being. Therefore, UNHCR will not conduct any resettlement activities during the time of displacement.
* Security and Reintegration: Some of the affected persons have already been reintegrated back to host communities under conditions of safety and dignity with the help of the Police. Police presence has also been reinforced in those areas. UNHCR continues to monitor the situation closely and receives information through the UNHCR Hotline and/or through Partners. This information is subsequently shared with the Police for response to any incidents that are taking place. Affected persons are also reminded to call the Police on the emergency number, 10111, if they need assistance.
UNHCR will continue to work with its Partners, other UN agencies and the South African authorities in their efforts to address the consequences of violent attacks against foreign nationals and, in particular, the displacement of refugees and asylum seekers. UNHCR wishes to remind refugees and asylum seekers to strictly respect the laws and regulations of South Africa and to cooperate with the authorities.
For more information from UNHCR, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or sms the Hotline on 082-570-8779.