Xenophobia in South Africa

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Xenophobia in South Africa

Prior to 1994 immigrants from elsewhere in Africa faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa, though much of that risk stemmed from the institutionalised racism of the time due to apartheid. After 1994 and democratisation, and contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased, Between 2000 and March 2008 at least 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. In May 2008 a series of riots left 62 people dead; although 21 of those killed were South African citizens. The attacks were apparently motivated by xenophobia.

Xenophobia in South Africa Before 1994

European immigration

Restrictions on immigration can be traced back to the Union of South Africa, with the different states adopting different policies on foreigners. A prejudice against immigrants from eastern and southern Europe (measured against the welcome of those from western and northern Europe) has been documented. In the Cape Colony the Cape Immigration Act (No 30) of 1906 set as requirement the ability to complete an application form in a European language (including Yiddish) and proof of £20 as visible means of support.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

 

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South Africa looks to deport Zimbabwean immigrants

Thousands of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa could face deportation in the New Year.

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South Africa is home to up to three million Zimbabwean immigrants, many of whom entered the country illegally.

In September, South African authorities declared that they were cracking down on illegal immigration, and that any Zimbabwean migrants who had not applied for a visa by December 31 would be forced to go home.

Now, with just a few days to go before the deadline expires, migrants are queuing round the block at Department of Home Affairs offices to organise their documentation – with some claiming they have been forced to wait in line for several days to simply pick up an application form.

There are are currently between two and three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, of whom less than half are believed to have valid documentation.

As of December 22 however, less than 13,000 applications had been received – of which only 43,087 are understood to have been processed. From those which have been been adjudicated, 10,844 have been denied.

Many migrants are believed to have been unable to apply because they cannot afford to take the necessary time off work to queue. Others have been held back by the fact they need a Zimbabwean passport to apply – something many illegal migrants do not have.

The authorities have increased staff levels and extended working hours over the Christmas period, as well as simplifying some aspects of the application process, but have rejected appeals from pleas from migrants to extend the deadline.

“My department is committed to ensuring that all Zimbabwean nationals are documented so they can begin to live productive lives in South Africa, free from fear of persecution,” said Minister of Home Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. “I am…convinced that all Zimbabwean nationals will have an opportunity to hand in their applications.”

Human rights groups have accused the goverment of setting an unrealistic timeframe for the application process, with some going so far as to suggest it is a deliberate measure to facilitate the expulsion of large numbers of migrants.

The increasing number of migrants entering South Africa from Zimbawe in recent years has triggered hostility from parts of the South African population.

The government has responded by saying that efforts to get Zimbabwean nationals to apply for the correct documentation were implemented between April 2009 and 2010, and that the September-December timeframe was intended only to give those had not yet applied a chance to do so. “Therefore, far from Zimbabweans having only three months to submit to this process, they have had a year and three months” said Dlamini Zuma.

Braam Hanekom, a spokesman for the migrants rights group People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty, said that his organisation was “completely against deportation of Zimbabweans who are not criminals and who are either rejected refugee applicants or undocumented.

“We believe that every effort should be made to meet the deadline, by all stakeholders and that if there remain large numbers of Zimbabweans queuing at the offices the department should seriously consider its extension,” he said.

Although the deadline for applications will not be extended, authorities have stated that deportations will not begin until the last application has been processed.

“It is unclear when the moratorium on deportations will be lifted,” said Mr Hanekom.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Somali shopkeepers meet police over fears

Somali nationals demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town against recent xenophobic attacks, and call for the United Nations High Commission on refugees to take over the running of relief centres

Somali nationals demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town against recent xenophobic attacks, and call for the United Nations High Commission on refugees to take over the running of relief centres

SOMALI shopkeepers in Gugulethu, nervous about possible xenophobic attacks, met police yesterday to voice their concerns.

“They don`t know when the locals will loot their stores and chase them away,” said Mncedisi Twualo, chairman of the Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) in the Western Cape,.

He and other Somali shopkeepers who went to the Gugulethu police station said that protests from locals and negative sentiment had increased recently, responding in particular to the proliferation of Somali shops in the area.

“They`ll say: `You Somalis, why do you open your stores here?`” said Baska Cusnan, a Somali shopkeeper who has been in South Africa for six years.

“Somalis can stay in the townships and enjoy lives in the townships, but they can`t run shops here – they must run them in town. That`s some of the feelings we`re running into,” Twualo said.

An agreement between the Somali and local communities in August 2009, which the AEC and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Cape Town helped negotiate, had several stipulations for Somali business in the area.

Among them were that Somali stores had to be 100m from local stores, and that Somalis could request to have new shops, “if the opportunity arises”, only if the local community agreed to it.

There must also be uniform price ranges, a ratio of about seven local shops to every three Somali shops, and the sharing of Somali trading expertise and knowledge with the community.

According to Twualo and the Somalis who met with police, some new Somali immigrants are violating the regulations by opening new stores without agreement from the community. Twualo estimated that in some areas there is at least one Somali shop per street.

Cusnan wanted the harassing of Somali shopkeepers to stop.

But he and the other shopkeepers there who have lived in South Africa for years said they didn`t want new shops or new Somalis breaking the rules.

“We (Somalis) work together, stay together – no problem,” he said. “The new shops are a problem.”

The AEC said it would mobilise its members to protect shopkeepers should xenophobic attacks break out.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika