The United Nations refugee agency says it is deeply worried by recurring unrest against foreign nationals, including refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa.
At least 12 people, including both foreign nationals and South Africans, were killed in the latest series of violence, mostly around S A’s economic engine Johannesburg.
UNHCR joins many African influential figures who raised their concerns and condemned the attacks of African brothers by their fellow Africans.
UNHCR said in a statement that at least 1,500 foreign nationals, predominantly migrants but also refugees and asylum-seekers, have been forced to flee their homes.
The agency said that some 800 people, mostly from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, have sought safety in community halls in Katlehong. Most of them have expressed a desire to return to their home countries, saying they no longer feel safe in South Africa.
UNHCR said that 73 Malawians, 138 Mozambicans, 314 Nigerians and 72 Zimbabweans have decided to return already.
The agency called upon authorities to take measure to ensure people’s safety and welfare.
UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric says, “UNHCR said today it is deeply concerned about the recurring violence against foreign nationals including refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa. The Agency is working closely with the government, other agencies and other partners to ensure the safety of refugees by deploying additional staff, emergency shelters and other supplies, psycho-social care and legal assistance.”
Dujarric says the UNHCR calls on all state authorities to take every possible measure to ensure people’s safety and welfare.
“No effort should be spared to quell the violence and enforce the rule of law. Those responsible for committing criminal acts must be held to account in court,” the statement said according to SABC News.
UNHCR also called for the implementation of the recently adopted National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.