Cape Town - Parliament heard on Friday 42% of people arrested under Operation Fiela-Reclaim have been undocumented foreigners.
This was despite the fact that this group constitute only 5% of the total population, researcher Adam Salmon told the newly constituted ad hoc joint committee probing violence against foreign nationals.
Minister in the Presidency from the Inter-Ministerial Committee on migration, Jeff Radebe, had denied allegations that foreigners were being targeted, he said. “But of 3 914 arrests, 1650 (42%) were undocumented foreigners.”
The operation – which targets illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activity - is continuing, with members of the SA National Defence Force having a mandate until the end of this month.
Civic society organisations have criticised the raids as institutionalised xenophobia and urged the government to stop the arrests.
Giving a summary of developments since the outbreak of xenophobic-related violence in April, Salmon said that the National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC) continues to operate on a 24-hour basis to coordinate the government’s response to the situation.
Altogether 307 suspects have been arrested in connection with attacks on foreigners and public violence across the country, which left seven people dead including three South Africans. An additional 1240 intelligence operatives had been deployed in hot spots across the country, he said.
The committee spent the first part of the morning setting up the nuts and bolts for the work that lies ahead. This includes oversight visits to KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Western Cape during the mid-year constituency period.
MPs stressed the importance of visiting communities and businesses on the ground and also meeting embassy officials from affected countries.
Concerns were raised that a lot of work had already been done during previous parliamentary investigations – dating back to 2008 - and that the committee should not “reinvent the wheel”, especially because of the urgency of the situation and amid a tight deadline.
The committee, chaired by Ruth Bhengu, meets again next week, The final report by the committee, which includes representation from both National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, is due to be finalised by July 31.