/ 10 December 2009

UN alarmed by xenophobic attacks in SA

Attacks on foreigners in South Africa are ”gravely alarming” and the government should implement laws to prevent further outbreaks of violence, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights said on Thursday.

A South African native herself, Navi Pillay said it was worrying that South Africa, which only emerged from apartheid in 1994 and has prided itself as a model of democracy since, has failed to protect its foreign residents.

”New forms of xenophobia are on the rise, particularly against refugees and migrants. Attacks against non-nationals in South Africa and elsewhere are gravely alarming,” Pillay said.

At least 42 people died and tens of thousands on foreigners were displaced across the country last year in riots over jobs and rising crime in Africa’s biggest economy.

Other smaller uprisings over jobs and poor delivery of sanitation and health services, especially to the country’s townships, have occurred since. Last month 2 700 Zimbabwean asylum seekers had to set up temporary safety camps in rural areas after attacks.

South Africa faces an influx of visitors from all over the globe next year when it hosts the Soccer World Cup, which will run from June 11 to July 11.

Pillay urged the government to ratify the United Nations convention on the protection of migrants and their families.

”Governments should ratify this and pass appropriate legislation to implement it,” she said on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the Declaration on International Human Rights.

Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe said that attacks on migrants were a ”matter of shame” for all South Africans and said dedicated proscutors and courts had been made available to confront the problem. – Reuters