Thursday, November 13, 2008

Attacks against foreigners in South Africa have been continuing, with at least 10 migrants killed in November 2008 in the Cape Town area

Anti-foreigner violence in May 2008 forced an estimated 100,000 people from their homes in South Africa and was blamed for at least 62 deaths. One activist said foreigners were still too scared to return home from camps for displaced people in Cape Town. Another observer said that he expected the violence to escalate. Dr Loren Landau of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg said the violence was a nationwide phenomenon that had never gone away. The situation could further deteriorate as politicians vie for votes ahead of national elections next year, he said. One of the victims of the recent killings in Cape Town was an Ethiopian shopkeeper, Abdi Sirej, who had fled in May and recently been persuaded to return home. Those who knew him describe him as a quiet man, who did his best to get on with his neighbors. In a recent interview he said foreigners were being told to come back home but there was "no safety, no guarantee". The violence in May caused the worst bloodshed in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. It began in a township north of Johannesburg before spreading to other parts of the country. Some camps for displaced people around Johannesburg have been closed, with authorities there declaring that it was safe for people to return home despite protests from human rights groups. Camps in Cape Town are also supposed to have closed but two remain open, home to more than 700 people. Tracey Saunders, a volunteer working in one of the camps, said foreigners there thought they would be killed if they left. She said one woman had tried to go home twice, and had been attacked both times. "Another woman from the [Democratic Republic of Congo] who went back to the community she came from, and was raped and was told in no uncertain terms that if she came back she would be murdered and her children would be as well," she said.

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