UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is extremely concerned over the violent attacks targeting foreign nationals, including refugees and asylum-seekers in the Durban area in KwaZulu-Natal Province.
At least six people have reportedly been killed and several others have been severely injured when mobs armed with metal rods and machetes broke into the homes of foreigners to chase them away and loot their belongings. Several shops run by foreigners have also been looted, vandalised or set on fire.
Reportedly, attacks were linked to protests that turned into brutal violence against foreigners in Springfield Park, Seacow Lake, Kenville, Inanda Road, Palm Field, Peters Road and adjacent N2 and M19 - including Umgeni interchange.
“UNHCR calls for urgent action by the government and civil society to prevent reoccurring violence against foreign nationals, including refugees who come to South Africa for protection from persecution and violence. Regardless of nationality or immigration status, the human rights of all persons residing in South Africa must be respected” said Leonard Zulu, UNHCR Deputy Regional Representative for Southern Africa. “We also call for the government to ensure that those responsible for acts of violence are brought to account”.
Some 250 persons have sought safety and protection at Sherwood Mosque as well as in different police stations.
UNHCR is currently working with authorities, UN agencies and partners to prevent escalation of violence and to coordinate the response for affected persons, including refugees and asylum-seekers.
South Africa launched a National Action Plan on March 22 this year to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. The National Action Plan foresees the establishment of a rapid response team reacting swiftly to all incidents of xenophobia and intolerance.
The country is host to some 274,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Information Centre in Pretoria (UNIC).