Resettlement of fearful refugees fails in South Africa


Johannesburg : Three weeks after anti-immigrant violence flared up in South Africa, a first attempt at resettling those driven from their homes has failed, South Africa’s e-tv reported Sunday.

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The refugees refused to take up places in guarded camps out of mistrust and fear for their lives, the television station reported.

The government plans to resettle 19,000 people living in churches, police stations and town halls in the Johannesburg area with the help of the United Nations.

Aid organizations have complained that the government has not sufficiently prepared the camps.

One of the camps is also near the hostel that was the scene of the initial xenophobic violence.

Police say that 62 people have died in the ensuing violence.

“A total of 670 people have been injured,” police spokeswoman Sally de Beer said.

The Saturday Star newspaper reported that five more people had died in the last week following 81 attacks.

The newspaper contradicted government claims that the violence had ended.

The anti-immigrant violence against Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Somalis, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Indians and Chinese started in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra and spread nationwide.

Hundreds were raped or injured, while tens of thousands fled to neighbouring countries or emergency accommodation that the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) has described as unfit for human habitation.

In some places only 20 toilets were made available for 2,000 refugees.

People affected by the violence said at the weekend that it was continuing in Cape Town, and there were death threats and intimidation in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal province.

Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg and Pretoria, has been declared a disaster zone.

After dragging its feet, the South African government finally asked the UNHCR for help. The organization donated 2,000 tents to house 10,000 people.

The UNHCR says that 100,000 people have been driven from their homes, while the government estimated the number at 35,000.