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Statement in response to xenophobic attacks against migrants in South Africa

In response to xenophobic attacks against migrants in South Africa, Adriano Campolina, Secretary General of ActionAid international said:

“A country that does not know its history cannot learn from its mistakes. The South African government’s continued failure to protect migrants from xenophobic attacks shows at best, a lack of political will, at worst, flagrant populist campaigning ahead of the May 8 election.

“Anti-immigrant sentiment from right-wing populists across the globe are diverting attention from governments’ failure to offer decent work to citizens, by blaming migrants for lack of jobs and economic insecurity.

“Violence against migrants in South Africa, especially from other African countries, continues to result in deaths, serious injuries, looting and destruction of businesses and properties. This has fostered an environment of fear and uncertainty, resulting from the total impunity for perpetrators and slow action of law enforcement.

“ActionAid condemns the denial of migrants’ access to services they are entitled to and calls for law enforcement to clean up its act regarding extortion, harassment, arbitrary detention and selective enforcement of the law.”

ActionAid, which is based in Johannesburg, has developed a pre-election five-point plan, which calls on the government of South Africa to prioritise, in order to reduce unnecessary stoking of xenophobia and needless tragedies such as the deaths of innocent civilians.

Notes to Editors

In ActionAid’s five-point plan for South Africa’s pre-election period, the government of South Africa must:

  • Condemn politicians making harmful statements which use refugees, migrants and asylum seekers as bargaining chips ahead of the May 2019 elections;
  • Conduct transparent independent investigations to bring suspected perpetrators to account; and uphold the rule of law to counter impunity, vigilantism and mob justice;
  • Hold institutions such as the police and intelligence services more accountable: for their failure to prevent violence, despite visible warning signs; Eg. put in place a systematic plan involving the police and other agencies, in consultation with affected migrants, on how they could prevent and protect refugees from future targeted attacks;
  • Ensure economic and social rights of both citizens and migrants, prioritizing access to public services, including education, transport, health-care facilities and decent work.
  • Increase awareness about immigrant and refugee rights to foster inclusive sentiments among South African citizens. eg. Resolve conflicts through existing community systems which respect constitutional principles of universal rights and due process.