Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

South Africa: Xenophobia victims choose safety over comfort

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 13 August 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), South Africa: Xenophobia victims choose safety over comfort, 13 August 2009, available at: [accessed 26 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.

CAPE TOWN, 13 August 2009 (IRIN) - Victims of South Africa's xenophobic attacks in May 2008 say they will only leave the temporary camp where they are living if they are repatriated to their home countries.

Bluewater camp outside Cape Town, in Western Cape Province, has housed 396 people - mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Somalia - for about a year, during which tension between the foreign nationals and the authorities has slowly increased, especially since the city of Cape Town ordered them to leave the site, which is also used as a holiday camp.

On 11 August acting High Court judge Arnoldus Smit put on hold a ruling on an application brought by the City of Cape Town to have the people evicted, after he was informed that the two parties were on the verge of reaching an amicable agreement.

Charlene May of the Legal Resources Centre, a humanitarian NGO representing the refugees, told IRIN they had met with city officials a few days before the scheduled court ruling.

"We are still waiting for the offer so we can put it to our clients. We think that it will be an offer of alternative accommodation, but we are not sure if this will be acceptable to the people we represent," she said.

The city has taken the view that the foreign nationals should be reintegrated into the communities from which they fled, citing the successful return of nearly 20,000 other foreign nationals to communities in Western Cape Province as a precedent.

The xenophobic violence erupted in Johannesburg in May 2008 and quickly spread through most parts of the country, killing more than 60 people and displacing about 100,000 others.

A spokesperson for the Bluewater residents, Didier Kilolokama, disputed the success of the reintegration process and alleged that many acts of violence were still being perpetrated against foreign nationals who had been reintegrated into communities.

The camp's inhabitants have endured the cold and wet winter months in tents, with no electricity or hot water and little food, but despite the harsh conditions said they would prefer to stay where they were if repatriation to their home countries was not an option.

"It is very difficult to move back into the communities. Lots of people in South Africa are ... [on strike] and looking for more money at this time because they are poor - they are angry and they take it out on us," Kilolokama said. "The conditions here are bad, but we are at least safe."


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