Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:06 GMT

Xenophobic wave of violence in South Africa: Urgent need for a political response

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Xenophobic wave of violence in South Africa: Urgent need for a political response, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) condemn the current wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa, which reportedly lead to the death of more than 20 people.

On 11 May, violent attacks erupted in the township of Alexandra, North of Johannesburg, targeting foreigners from neighbouring countries, mainly Zimbabweans and Mozambicans, before spreading across the Gauteng Province. This violence against foreigners, who are accused by many South Africans of being responsible for social ills and crimes, have forced at least 6000 people to seek refuge in churches or police stations, fleeing homelessness, gunshots, burning or even rapes.

"We are highly saddened by the brutality of this violence. The South Africa authorities should take urgent steps to put an end to this murderous wave of xenophobic violence. They should take all necessary measures to ensure that all individual responsible for murder, rape or any other form of physical violence are brought to justice", said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

According to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a constitutionally mandated institution, these attacks are the result of the government's failure to take the threat of xenophobic feelings seriously. Those concerns had already been raised in FIDH's recent fact-finding mission report on the situation of migrants in South Africa, "Surplus People? Undocumented and other vulnerable migrants in South Africa", which emphasizes the most worrying human rights violations faced by migrants due to the South African migration policy geared towards security concerns and population control.

Today, the FIDH reiterates its recommendations to the South Africa's authorities, urging them to reinforce their human-rights-based legal framework in order to prevent and redress human rights violations against migrants. Once again, FIDH urges them to provide widespread training on migrant's rights and against xenophobia to police services, immigration services, public health and education services and local administrations. South Africa also needs to develop research and public education on the number and categories of migrants coming to South Africa, the reasons for their stay, as well as their role and place in South African economy and society.

FIDH, which participated in the 43rd ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights' (ACHPR), held in Ezulwini, Swaziland, since 7 May 2008, also raised the issue of the situation of migrants in South Africa during the public sessions. FIDH calls on the ACHPR, which is concluding its session, to adopt an urgent resolution to condemn this crisis situation and to provide its Special Rapporteur on Refugees and Displaced Persons in Africa with all the necessary means to conduct an investigation mission in South Africa, within the framework of his mandate.

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