Migrants still living in fear in South Africa – Amnesty

Lindera camp

Rights group Amnesty International says migrants are still facing daily discrimination and living in constant fear of physical attacks in South Africa.

In 2008, horrific attacks against foreigners claimed the lives of 60 lives in South Africa.

Shehnilla Mohamed
Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa Shenilla Mohamed

Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa Shenilla Mohamed said the violence that spread across South Africa in 2008 should have been a wake-up call for the South African government.

“Ongoing xenophobia in South Africa is compounded by the failed criminal justice system, with many cases remaining unresolved, which allows perpetrators to attack refugees and migrants with impunity. There has been a marked failure to bring those responsible for the 2008 attacks to justice, emboldening future attackers and leaving refuges and migrants in a constant state of fear,” Mohammed said.

Amnesty has since called on authorities to investigate all outstanding xenophobia-related cases and compensate all the victims who have suffered discrimination and attacks.

“The perpetrators must be brought to justice in order to break the cycle of violence,” the organisation says.

On 11 May, 2008 a Mozambican national, Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuaye, was beaten, stabbed and set alight in a brutal killing which set off a chain of violent attacks against migrants and refugees in South Africa.

Since 2008 there have been numerous outbreaks of violence against refugees and migrants in South Africa.

On 7 June 2014, violence erupted in Mamelodi, a township northeast of Pretoria, resulting in attacks on shops owned by people of Somali origin in and around the township over a period of six days costing lives and livelihoods.

In April 2015, another Mozambican national, Emmanuel Sithole, was stabbed to death in Alexander Township in Johannesburg.

In the same month, widespread attacks against refugees, migrants and their businesses were recorded in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal. At least four people were killed while many others were seriously injured, shops looted and more than 1000 people displaced in the province.

On 24 February 2017, residents of Pretoria took to the streets protesting against high inequality, poverty and unemployment, which they blamed on refugees and migrants. The protests were accompanied by confrontations and violence.

In some cases, xenophobia has been fuelled by the hate-filled rhetoric of South African authorities.  For example, in December 2016, the Executive Mayor of City of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba ignited attacks when he labelled foreign nationals living in Johannesburg “criminals” who had hijacked the city.