Monday, May 19, 2008

Some 6,000 people have fled a wave of attacks on foreigners in South Africa, which has left at least 22 dead, aid workers say

Many of those who have sought refuge in police stations, churches and community halls are Zimbabweans, who have fled violence and poverty at home. Up to three million Zimbabweans are thought to be in South Africa. The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Johannesburg says the immigrants have become a scapegoat for social problems, such as unemployment, crime and a lack of housing. Mobs of South Africans continue to roam around some townships near Johannesburg, looking for foreigners and looting their shops. But there have also been attacks on South Africans from other parts of the country, especially from near the Zimbabwean border. Over the weekend, correspondents say central Johannesburg resembled a war-zone, as armed police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse angry crowds. Some Zimbabweans say they will go home, despite the political violence there, rather than face attacks in South Africa. The front pages of several South African newspapers show a horrific image of a man being burnt to death. The police say they have made more than 200 arrests for crimes including murder, rape and robbery.

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