Somali refugees plea for protection

2013-06-07 22:37
Refugees protest in Cape Town. (Picture: Sapa)

Refugees protest in Cape Town. (Picture: Sapa)

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Cape Town – Government has slammed a wave of "heinous" anti-foreigner attacks, as Somali immigrants took to the streets in Cape Town to demand greater protection.

Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane expressed the government's "strongest condemnation" of the violence that has recently seen looting and the death of a Somali shopkeeper.

"South Africa belongs to all who live in it, and we, therefore, have been appalled and deeply saddened by the recent acts of violence against Somalis and other foreign nationals in South Africa," she told a media briefing.

Up to 200 Somalis in Cape Town marched on parliament to deliver a memorandum urging the government to act.

"We need protection - simple as that," one of the organisers, Abdullahi Ali Hassan, told AFP.

Amid widespread poverty and unemployment, frustration in South Africa's run-down neighbourhoods often boils over into anti-immigrant violence.

An explosion of deadly attacks in 2008 killed more than 60 people and displaced thousands into refugee-style camps.

At least 140 foreigners were killed and 250 seriously injured last year, according to the African Centre for Migration and Society.

This year has seen at least three major incidents every week, the centre said last month.

‘Stop killing Somalians’

The Somalis in Cape Town chanted calls for protection and peace with one placard simply urging "Stop killing Somalians".

"We want to be treated like brothers and sisters of South Africa, not like enemies, not like foreigners," said Hassan.

"We come from the African continent, so we want to be treated like community members."

The marchers carried printouts of screen grabs of a video said to be of a naked Somali man being brutally stoned to death in a public street in the city of Port Elizabeth.

However, police spokesperson Stanley Jarvis in Port Elizabeth told AFP that the shopkeeper had been stabbed last Thursday.

He said the origin of the video had not been verified.

Nkoana-Mashabane paid homage and expressed "sincere gratitude" to Africa's support to the country's anti-apartheid liberation struggle, including from Somalis.

"The looting, displacement and killing of foreign nationals in South Africa should not be viewed as xenophobic attacks, but opportunistic criminal acts that have the potential to undermine the unity and cohesiveness of our communities," she said.

"There is no cause to justify this heinous crime."

Read more on:    maite nkoana-mashabane  |  cape town  |  refugees  |  xenophobia
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