Friday, July 16, 2010

African immigrants are fleeing South Africa for fear of fresh xenophobic violence after the close of the World Cup soccer tournament

A previous spate of anti-foreigner attacks in 2008 cut into investor confidence and another wave could mar the country's image after its successful hosting of the Cup. Almost as soon as Spain defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup final, concerns flared about a relapse into attacks on immigrants from neighboring states competing for scarce jobs. Police shifted from protecting foreign visitors at soccer stadiums to patrolling impoverished townships where immigrants have lived as officials vowed no repeat of the violence two years ago that killed 62 and left more than 100,000 homeless. But many immigrants fear a rapid dissipation of feelings of African unity generated by the first World Cup ever held on the continent, stilling South African accusations that foreigners were stealing jobs at a time of 25% unemployment. The country's liberal immigration policies have led to millions of Africans flocking to its borders where prospects for work as unskilled labor in the continent's biggest economy, albeit few, are far better than what they can find at home. The International Organization for Migration reported that Zimbabwean families were fleeing. Local reports have said foreigners were leaving on buses while one immigrant from Somalia said he was seeking refuge in a densely populated suburb after his store in a township was burned down. One of the difficulties in classifying the motive for attacks on immigrants is the country's alarmingly high crime rates. The poor from South Africa and abroad fall victim to violence daily in the state where murders average 50 per day. Sixteen years since the end of white minority rule, millions of blacks still live in abject poverty and the African National Congress-led government has struggled to deliver on its promise of better living conditions.

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