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UN rights expert ‘dismayed’ at xenophobic violence in South Africa

UN rights expert ‘dismayed’ at xenophobic violence in South Africa

Displaced foreigners offload UNHCR sleeping mats in Germiston (South Africa)
A United Nations human rights expert today said he was distressed at the current spate of xenophobic attacks on foreigners and ethnic minorities in South Africa, which has claimed the lives of 56 people.

“I express my distress at the recent xenophobic violence targeting refugees, migrants and South African ethnic minorities in Johannesburg and surrounding townships,” Doudou Diène, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on racism, said in a statement.

Mr. Diène called on the South African Government to carry out a thorough investigation of the acts of violence to bring the perpetrators to justice and to prevent the spread of atrocities.

He also urged the authorities to launch a comprehensive discussion about how to better integrate migrants in the country.

“Only a cultural and ethical approach can address the deep-rooted problems of racism and discrimination and promote long-term tolerance and living together among all communities,” he said.

He said the recent violence in South Africa underlined the relevance and legitimacy of the Durban Review Conference on racism which will be held next year.

Meanwhile the UN refugee agency is releasing 2,000 tents to the South African Government to help provide much-needed shelter to the estimated 100,000 people who have been uprooted by the violence.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that the majority of the displaced people were undocumented migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and other African countries, some of whom have since returned to their countries of origin, or to a third country.

To date, some 42,000 migrants, including refugees and asylum-seekers, are sheltered in 95 makeshift sites, mostly in Gauteng and Western Cape provinces.

Among those affected are thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers from Zimbabwe, Somalia, Ethiopia and other African countries, whose homes were destroyed and businesses looted, and burned.

There are more than 128,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa, coming from a wide variety of countries.