SAfrica reflects on xenophobia on World Refugee Day

South Africa has one of highest numbers of refugees on continent; xenophobic attacks occur mostly in rural areas.

SAfrica reflects on xenophobia on World Refugee Day

World Bulletin / News Desk

Over the weekend, activists in South Africa used World Refugee Day to reflect on the plight of migrants in the country, two months after foreign nationals were attacked in xenophobic violence that killed seven people.

“We did not celebrate World Refugee Day, but used the occasion to reflect on the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the country,” Marc Gbaffou, chairman of the African Diaspora Forum, told Anadolu Agency on Saturday.

He said they had wanted to go protest at the Lindela repatriation center where hundreds of migrants are awaiting deportation, but were not granted permission.

"Refugees and asylum seekers are still living in a very vulnerable situation in this country," Gbaffou said.

Two months ago, South Africa witnessed anti-immigrant violence targeting migrants from mostly African countries.

The violence began in the coastal city of Durban, where mobs descended on the homes and shops of a number of foreign migrants.

The victims were accused of stealing jobs from native South Africans, committing crimes, and putting a burden on the country's social services.

At least seven people were killed in the violence, which later spread to parts of Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city.

"We can't celebrate World Refugee Day when there are hundreds of victims of the recent xenophobic attacks who have nowhere to live," Amir Sheikh, chairman of the Somali Community Board, told Anadolu Agency.

He said many refugees and asylum seekers lost their properties during the xenophobic violence in April and have now been rendered destitute. 

"There is nothing to celebrate," he said of World Refugee Day, saying they should instead "reflect on the plight of refugees."

Sheikh also accused government officials of using the occasion to make long speeches instead of celebrating the achievements of refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

"Refugees who live and work in rural communities are still vulnerable to attacks. There are a lot of inequalities in these communities and if the government does not address these issues then the attacks will continue," he said.

World Refugee Day is commemorated around the world on June 20 every year to honor the courage, strength, resilience and determination of people who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

South Africa has one of the highest numbers of refugees on the continent.

The majority of these refugees and asylum seekers are from war-torn countries such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea among others.

They often work in the informal trade sector, operating mostly from rural areas, which make them a target of xenophobic attacks.

"I am happy that there is a special day meant to recognize us as refugees in the world," Patrice Olomide from the DRC told Anadolu Agency.

He said he was happy to have received refugee status in South Africa. 

"Although there is some anti-foreigner sentiment in this country, I still feel safer here compared to my home country," he said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Haziran 2015, 23:17