International Refugee Day

By Drum Digital
20 June 2016

The Action Support Centre (ASC), an organisation that deals with conflict and transformation in communities says rumours and stereotypical views towards foreign nationals continue to exist despite xenophobic attacks having quietened down since the last incident took place in 2015.

Monday 20th of June marks World Refugee Day and in South Africa and resentment and violence towards foreign nationals has shamed the nation.

Philani Ndebele, Campaign manager at the ASC says the previous incidences were sparked by the careless utterances by Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelethini, who sparked uproar when he said foreign nationals must be deported because they are competing with the few economic opportunities South Africans have.

More so than this statement, Ndebele says underlying issues such as the rising youth unemployment and the increase in unregulated ‘spaza’ shops popping up in communities, also play a role in the ongoing resentment towards foreign nationals.

“Most locals believe that every foreign national is in SA illegally, even though some of them are here legally,” he says, “there are also stereotypes and rumours that the escalation of drugs in communities is because of foreign nationals, and that they are taking up limited resources and competing for South African women.”

Ndebele warns that with the upcoming elections and an escalation in service delivery protests, foreign nationals might become “soft targets” in some of these violent protests.

“One of the basic amenities that communities want from government is housing and there is an assumption that foreign nationals who occupy RDP houses were given those houses by corrupt officials,” he says.

These views were further expressed by Zwelethini who said leaders in government do not want to speak out about Xenophobia because they are scared of losing votes.

The 2014 Calendar Year Asylum Trends by the Department of Home Affairs and the Foreign Migration Studies Program has estimated that:

  •  In a population of 50 million in SA, foreign nationals make up 3-4 percent of the total population.
  •  It is estimated that there are 1.6 million to 2 million foreign nationals living in SA.
  •  There is an estimated range of between 500 000 to 1 million undocumented migrants living in the country.
  •  An estimated 140 foreign nationals have died in xenophobic attacks sine 2000
  • An estimated 23 South Africans citizens were also killed in xenophobic attacks.

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