Xenophobia in South Africa After 1994

A policeman walks past a burning shack after xenophobia attacks in a Johannesburg squatter camp.

A policeman walks past a burning shack after xenophobia attacks in a Johannesburg squatter camp.

Despite a lack of directly comparable data, xenophobia in South Africa is perceived to have significantly increased after the installation of a democratic government in 1994. According to a 2004 study published by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP):

“The ANC government – in its attempts to overcome the divides of the past and build new forms of social cohesion… embarked on an aggressive and inclusive nation-building project. One unanticipated by-product of this project has been a growth in intolerance towards outsiders… Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees has become increasingly common and communities are divided by hostility and suspicion.”

The study was based on a citizen survey across member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and found South Africans expressing the harshest anti-foreigner sentiment, with 21% of South Africans in favour of a complete ban on entry by foreigners and 64% in favour of strict limitations on the numbers allowed. By contrast, the next-highest proportion of respondents in favour of a total ban on foreigners were in neighbouring Namibia and Botswana, at 10%.

Foreigners and the South African Police Service

A 2004 study by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) or attitudes among police officers in the Johannesburg area found that 87% of respondents believed that most undocumented immigrants in Johannesburg are involved in crime, despite there being no statistical evidence to substantiate the perception. Such views combined with the vulnerability of illegal aliens led to abuse, including violence and extortion, some analysts argued.

In a March 2007 meeting with home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula a representative of Burundian refugees in Durban claimed immigrants could not rely on police for protection but instead found police mistreating them, stealing from them and making unfounded allegations that they sell drugs. Two years earlier, at a similar meeting in Johannesburg, Mapisa-Nqakula had admitted that refugees and asylum seekers were mistreated by police with xenophobic attitudes.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

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Immigration rules result in flood of bogus students

Serious flaws in immigration controls have been uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph only days after a chief government adviser called for a review of Britain’s student visa system.

New Home Office rules, which ministers promised would reduce the number of new arrivals, have actually led to a surge in applications

New Home Office rules, which ministers promised would reduce the number of new arrivals, have actually led to a surge in applications

Our undercover reporters have exposed a host of scams offered to foreign nationals desperate to come to Britain as bogus students.

New Home Office immigration rules, which ministers promised would reduce the number of new arrivals, have actually led to a surge in applications and prompted immigration officials to voice their concerns.

Thousands of bogus students are being handed British visas after the Government’s much-heralded reform of the immigration system created a major loophole, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

Whistleblowers within the immigration service have revealed for the first time that rising numbers of student visa applications have created a big global backlog because new Home Office rules left officials powerless to refuse fraudulent applicants.

Undercover reporters in three foreign countries have also exposed a host of fraudulent methods used in attempts to exploit weaknesses in the Home Office’s new “points-based” immigration system.

These include:

:: Fake “relatives” in Britain offered at $1,000 (£610) each, to make visa applications look more impressive.

:: Under-the-counter loans organised for foreigners to “prove” they can pay course fees and support themselves, although the money is handed back to the lender once it has appeared on bank statements.

:: Immigrants being advised to apply to a legitimate university and then switch to a bogus college once on British soil.

Last week, Professor David Metcalf, the chairman of the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee, said he was “stunned” by the number of colleges allowed to bring students into the country on degree courses despite them being “not proper universities”, and called for the scope of student visa sponsorship to be reviewed. A separate review is already under way after Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, last month called for a rethink of the student visa system.

The situation has worsened to such an extent, and created such a rush of applications, that one foreign government has already raised “concerns” about the points-based system with Home Office ministers, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Government officials in the Philippines alerted British consular staff to the large number of poorly-educated citizens who were heading for Britain on study visas.

Theresa Dizon-de Vega, Consul-General at the Philippine Embassy in London, said: “The Ambassador had a very productive discussion recently with minister Phil Woolas and officials of the UK Home Office.

“The Philippine Embassy and the UK Home Office agreed to co-ordinate closely and exchange information and views on various immigration-related concerns including the implementation of the new points-based system of migration.”

It is a major blow for the points-based system (PBS) which was meant to “raise the bar” and reduce the number of immigrants coming to Britain from outside Europe.

Devised by Liam Byrne, the former immigration minister who has since promoted to the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the PBS came into force for overseas students in March.

It requires students to have 40 points to come to Britain. Applicants receive 30 points for holding a course offer from a college or university, and 10 points for proving they can pay the fees and support themselves while in the country.

Sources within the UK Border Agency claim the PBS removed the discretion of entry clearance officers in British embassies around the world, who are now forced to approve applications if candidates demonstrate they have 40 points, even if they suspect the applicant is a fraud.

An investigation by this newspaper has exposed widespread abuse by visa agencies in India, China and the Philippines which are advising customers on how to get around the British Government’s requirements, with some admitting that most “students” were simply coming here to work.

One agency in Fazilka, in Punjab, India, made an extraordinary pledge, telling our reporter: “We guarantee an applicant a student visa within a month.”

At another agency based in a cramped, stinking building in Fazilka, close to the Pakistan border, an adviser told our reporter that students in Britain always find a way to work more than the permitted 20 hours a week.

In the Philippines, one agency offered to bolster a visa application by arranging for Filipinos already living in Britain to pose as members of the applicant’s family for $1,000 and also promised that course records could “be arranged” for a fee, even if the student had failed their exams.

The applicant would then be able to secure a place in a British college – winning 30 points required under the PBS – on the basis of fraudulent paperwork.

Agencies in China advised applicants to register with a bona fide language school or university, and then switch to a bogus college once on Britain soil, to make it easier to extend their visa.

Li Wiuling, an agent in Beijing, said: “You can change after you arrive, because the formal ones are expensive.”

She offered a “guaranteed” visa for 40,000 yuan (£3,500) and promised that anyone who failed to attend their classes in Britain faced little prospect of being discovered.

“There are so many people doing the same thing, they are all fine. There won’t be one risk out of 100,” she said.

Sources in the immigration service estimate that there are 5,000 immigrants in the London area alone who arrived here as bogus students and are working in the black economy, possibly with little intention of ever returning home.

Awareness of the Home Office’s new rules in countries such as China, Pakistan and India has led to student visa applications quadrupling in some areas, generating a global backlog running into tens of thousands, The Sunday Telegraph discloses today. Applications in Sri Lanka and Nepal are also believed to be increasing.

As consular staff struggle to process the mountain of paperwork, the backlog has reached 10,000 applications in Beijing and 6,000 in Bombay, sources told this newspaper.

The Home Office had already acknowledged a backlog of 14,000 applications from Pakistan which Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, officially blamed on computer problems earlier this year.

One source said: “Before the points-based system, Bombay was getting 150 applications a day in the peak application season but now it is getting 600 a day, which is why the backlog has gone up and up.

“At the moment there is massive abuse. The points-based system is utter nonsense and an utter farce.

“Without a shadow of a doubt you are talking about thousands of visas being issued to people who are not legitimate students and simply want to come to Britain and work.”

Insiders estimate that the visa section at the British Consulate in India has received 15,000 to 20,000 extra applications this year while in China there have been an extra 10,000.

Both the Indian and Chinese missions introduced a moratorium on new student applications eight weeks ago which remains in force in both countries. In an indication of the scale of the problem there are no plans to lift either embargo, sources said.

Last month it emerged that the number of student visas issued at Mumbai and New Delhi in India, and Dhaka in Bangladesh, was 6,771 between June and August last year, but this year the figure was 19,950.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “Ministers should be very worried if the new system is easier to exploit than the old one. They must act to reassure the public, and genuine colleges, that this is not another immigration disaster in the making.

“The borders agency needs to call in all applications that have come through these routes as a matter of urgency.”

A source said: “Under the old system under the Immigration Act, immigration officers could reject an application they believed was not legitimate. They don’t have that ability any more.

“As long as an applicant gets the points there is no flexibility for the entry clearance officer to reject the visa. It’s a terrible loophole.

“The government’s spin was that the PBS would make it much quicker and easier to spot false applications, but it has actually made things much worse.”

A Home Office spokesman denied there was a moratorium on applications and insisted that the rise in student visa numbers was down to the global recession and not the PBS.

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “The points-based system ensures that colleges and schools must be licensed to bring in foreign students, inspected by accreditation bodies and the UK Border Agency to ensure they are genuine, and take responsibility for their students.

“Before we tightened controls around 4,000 UK institutions were bringing in international students, this has been reduced to around 2,000.

“We continuously monitor our systems and where improvements can be made we will make them.”

Writer Exhorts Arabs, Muslims To Meet Obama Halfway For Change, Peace, Democracy

Residents watch a television broadcasting the speech of U.S. President Barack Obama from Cairo while sitting in a cafe in Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad ,June 4, 2009.

Residents watch a television broadcasting the speech of U.S. President Barack Obama from Cairo while sitting in a cafe in Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad ,June 4, 2009.

If the basic goal of Obama`s speech in Cairo tomorrow is to improve the relationship with the Muslim world, the question that is more useful to ask is: What are the signs for improving this relationship in the Muslim world itself? It has become the norm in our countries to blame external forces for corrupting our internal conditions and for causing the tension in relations among the different sides in the Arab and Muslim world. The notion of “clash of civilizations” was tantamount to a gift by the West to perpetuate this mental image among the Arabs and Muslims. It turned into a firm argument after the 11 September 2001 attacks when the neo-conservatives became enamored with taking their revenge from all the Muslims and punishing them for what a very few of them did. George W. Bush unleashed his “crusader wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq and the neo-conservatives vied with one another in supporting Israel until Israel for a moment began to think that it owns the Middle East and everyone in it. It waged two bloody wars in less than two years (in Lebanon and Gaza) and Bush gave it “a promise of guarantees” that clearly undermined the essence of Palestinian and Arab rights.

However, what is said above does not in any way negate the responsibility of the Arabs and Muslims themselves for the tragedies and ordeals that have befallen them or for their relationship with the West. This is clearly obvious when Obama`s desire for change is compared with the desire of the Arabs and Muslims for change as well as in their ability to bring about change. This point can be tested in three major issues. The first is the issue of democracy in the Arab world. The United States has played an important role in propping up certain tyrannical regimes in the Arab and Muslim world over the past six decades. This was openly admitted by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her famous speech at the American University of Cairo four years ago. Nevertheless, the responsibility of the Arab elites – both ruling elites and ruled elites – is also essential in this. These elites were confused by the Bush Administration`s call for change (note Obama`s use of the same term) in the Arab world. On the pages of this newspaper, the Arabs differed on the usefulness of US support for democracy in their countries and the Arab elite became divided on the notion of “by my hands and not by the hands of anyone else”. However, there was a vast distance between the ambitions for change by this elite and its ability to make it. When the empathy of “the hands of anyone else” toward the rise of Islamists in several Arab countries regressed, the Arab “hand” remained in fettered and unable to make this change.

Many are now appealing to President Obama not to forget to talk about democracy in his anticipated speech. However, the Arab regimes seem to be more crafty and cunning. In the past few months and after the departure of the Bush Administration, they enacted several noticeable political changes. Some released their opponents from the jails while others pardoned them. Some regimes proposed sudden institutional amendments while others preferred to amend some charters and constitutions in order to remain in power for ever. It seemed that the implicit message that these regimes wished to convey to the outside world is “we will make no change under duress”. Obama was well aware of this point. In his inaugural address, he avoided talking directly about support for democracy and referred this responsibility to the peoples concerned.

The second issue is the responsibility of the Arabs and Muslims for their conflicts stretching from Somalia to Pakistan. These are basically struggles for power although they may be packaged in slogans of religion, identity, and tribe. What is taking place in Somalia at present is similar to what happened in Afghanistan in the late 1980s after the departure of the Soviet troops. It can be summarized in one phrase “a war of everyone against everyone else”. Everyone in Somalia carries arms. Even Sufism – that we have known to be a moderate spiritual Islamic movement – has entered the armed fray in a confrontation with the “Al-Shabab” movement that is trying hard to establish the “Emirate of Somalistan” in the heart of the Arab world. What is happening in Yemen is incomprehensible. The country is sitting on a hot tin roof not only because of the struggle between the state and the jihadists and insurgents but also because of the re-emergence of the “virus” of national and geographic division after many thought that this virus has left the Yemeni body. Although the Americans have a clear role in it, the roots of what is happening in Pakistan are undermining the Pakistani society and the state`s institutional structure. What is most worth noting in the current confrontation between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban movement is that it causes more damage to the Muslim world than the damage caused by the neo-conservatives. This is not only because it is taking place between Muslims and the price is being paid by Muslim victims but also because it is sowing the seeds of future conflict that may erupt among the tribes and federal regions in Pakistan that may put an end to the state.

As for the third issue, it is related to the matrix of Arab-Arab relations on one hand and that of Arab-regional relations on the other. Although the US factor – that has played an influential role in this matrix over the past eight years – has changed, the stands of the other sides involved in it have not changed at all. In light of the above, Obama`s chances to make a quality change in the relationship with the Muslim world are governed and dependent on two points. The first point is Arab and Muslim readiness to shoulder part of the responsibility of mending this relationship. This is particularly true regarding a review of the terms of the ideological and religious discourse and lexicon toward the West in general. The second point is readiness to admit our own responsibility for many of our problems and structural differences distant from the American “scapegoat”. With his courageous admission of the mistakes made by his predecessors in managing the relationship with the Muslim world and in his efforts to correct these mistakes, Obama is essentially throwing the ball to the Muslim “court”. He is thus invalidating one of the strong excuses we have used to justify our domestic problems and calamities.

It is true that despite its attractiveness, the change that Obama is proposing aims at safeguarding American interests first. Nonetheless, the way in which Obama is calling for this change leaves the Arabs and Muslims with a freedom of movement and room for maneuvering that have perhaps not been available since the fall of the former Soviet Union. I believe that Obama will not wait long to test the Arab and Muslim reaction to the desire to improve relations with his country. He may end the period of review and testing if he concludes that it is not feasible to mend this relationship. In such a scenario, only interests – without values and principles – will be the basic guide of the US options toward the Arabs and Muslims. And Obama is brilliant at this. Obama may be forced to return to the strategy of “cost and dividend” regarding the issues of the Middle East. Obama, for instance, will not wait long regarding the dialogue with Iran. He will not accept anything less than are view by Iran of its slogans and options not only toward his country but also toward his country`s moderate allies. Obama will not venture angering Israel unless the Palestinians agree on the usefulness of the option of a peaceful settlement. Obama will not sacrifice his allies in Lebanon unless Syria promises to adjust its relations with Iran, Hizballah, and HAMAS. Thus, there will be no change without a price.

Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Mansur, former spokesman for the al Shabaab hardliners, addresses journalists in the Somalia capital Mogadishu, May 21, 2009. Somalia`s government has accused Eritrea of supporting al Shabaab insurgents with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons. Sheik Abu Mansur resigned from his position as spokesperson of the al Shabaab insurgents.

Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Mansur, former spokesman for the al Shabaab hardliners, addresses journalists in the Somalia capital Mogadishu, May 21, 2009. Somalia`s government has accused Eritrea of supporting al Shabaab insurgents with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons. Sheik Abu Mansur resigned from his position as spokesperson of the al Shabaab insurgents.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Obama wants `new beginning` in Muslim world

US President Barack Obama delivers his much-anticipated message to the Muslim world from the auditorium in the Cairo University campus in Cairo during a one-day visit to Egypt on June 04, 2009. Obama said that he wants “a new beginning” with the world`s 1.5 billion Muslims, and called for an end to a cycle of “suspicion and discord.”

US President Barack Obama delivers his much-anticipated message to the Muslim world from the auditorium in the Cairo University campus in Cairo during a one-day visit to Egypt on June 04, 2009. Obama said that he wants “a new beginning” with the world`s 1.5 billion Muslims, and called for an end to a cycle of “suspicion and discord.”

CAIRO, EGYPT - JUNE 4: Egyptian men watch US President Barack Obama `s key Middle East speech on TV in a coffee shop in the Islamic old city June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. In his speech, President Obama called for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims”, declaring that “this cycle of suspicion and discord must end”.

CAIRO, EGYPT – JUNE 4: Egyptian men watch US President Barack Obama `s key Middle East speech on TV in a coffee shop in the Islamic old city June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. In his speech, President Obama called for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims”, declaring that “this cycle of suspicion and discord must end”.

President tells audience that `cycle of suspicion and discord must end`

CAIRO (AP) – Quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Barack Obama called for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims” Thursday and said together, they could confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East.

“This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,” Obama said in a widely anticipated speech in one of the world`s largest Muslim countries, an address designed to reframe relations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The White House said Obama`s speech contained no new policy proposals on the Middle East. He said American ties with Israel are unbreakable, yet issued a firm, evenhanded call to the Jewish state and Palestinians alike to live up to their international obligations.

In a gesture to the Islamic world, Obama conceded at the beginning of his remarks that tension “has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”

“And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear,” said the president, who recalled hearing prayer calls of “azaan” at dawn and dusk while living in Indonesia as a boy.

At the same time, he said the same principle must apply in reverse. “Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”

Centerpiece of trip

Obama spoke at Cairo University after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the second stop of a four-nation trip to the Middle East and Europe.

The speech was the centerpiece of his journey, and while its tone was striking, the president also covered the Middle East peace process, Iran, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the violent struggle waged by Al-Qaida.

Obama arrived in the Middle East on Wednesday, greeted by a new and threatening message from Al-Qaida`s leader, Osama bin Laden. In an audio recording, the terrorist leader said the president inflamed the Muslim world by ordering Pakistan to crack down on militants in the Swat Valley and block Islamic law there.

But Obama said the actions of violent extremist Muslims are “irreconcilable with the rights of human beings,” and quoted the Qur’an to make his point: “be conscious of God and always speak the truth …”

“Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace,” he said.

“Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel`s right to exist,” he said of the organization the United States deems as terrorists.

“The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people,” Obama said.

“At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel`s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” on the West Bank and outskirts of Jerusalem, he said. “It is time for these settlements to stop.”

As for Jerusalem itself, he said it should be a “secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims …”

Obama also said the Arab nations should no longer use the conflict with Israel to distract its own people from other problems.

He treaded lightly on one issue that President George W. Bush had made a centerpiece of his second term — the spread of democracy.

Obama said he has a commitment to governments “that reflect the will of the people.” And yet, he said, “No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.”

At times, there was an echo of Obama`s campaign mantra of change in his remarks, and he said many are afraid it cannot occur.

“There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward,” he said.

The president`s brief stay in Cairo included a visit to the Sultan Hassan mosque, a 600-year-old center of Islamic worship and study. A tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza was also on his itinerary.

Attempt to temper expectations

The build-up to the speech was enormous, stoked by the White House although Obama seemed at pains to minimize hopes for immediate consequences.

“One speech is not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East,” he told a French interviewer. “Expectations should be somewhat modest.”

Eager to spread the president`s message as widely as possible, the tech-savvy White House orchestrated a live Webcast of the speech on the White House site; remarks translated into 13 languages; a special State Department site where users could sign up for speech highlights; and distribution of excerpts to social networking giants MySpace, Twitter and Facebook.

Though the speech was co-sponsored by al-Azhar University, which has taught science and Quranic scripture here for nearly a millennium, the actual venue was the more modern and secular Cairo University. The lectern was set up in the domed main auditorium on a stage dominated by a picture of Mubarak.

Human rights advocates found that symbolism troubling: an American president watched over by an aging autocrat who`s ruled Egypt since 1981.

“Egypt`s democrats cannot help being concerned,” wrote Dina Guirguis, executive director of Voices for a Democratic Egypt.

The university`s alumni are among the Arab world`s most famous — and notorious. They include the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfuz. Saddam Hussein studied law in the `60s but did not graduate. And al-Qaida second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri earned a medical degree.

 

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika