Foreign migrants and refugees in South Africa have been warned to prepare for a wave of xenophobic attacks as soon as the final whistle of the World Cup blows.
This week, two years after the start of the 2008 riots that left scores dead across the country, a consortium of leading migration organizations said it had received reports by foreign nationals that they were being threatened with violence after the tournament.
“These threats are coming from many different people: neighbors, colleagues, taxi drivers, passersby, but also from nurses, social workers and police officers,” said Cormsa, whose members include Amnesty International, the South African Red Cross Society and the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
“Some of those making the threats believe that they have the support of senior political leaders,” it said.
Dozens of women from Zimbabwe interviewed in Hillsborough, downtown Johannesburg, said they were being intimidated and threatened daily by their landlords and groups of men gathering outside their homes at night.
“They say they will come after the World Cup and they will kill us,” said Ethel Musonza, 32, a mother of four. “These people are serious, they are organized, they know where we live. They say they won’t do anything during the World Cup because of the foreign tourists, but afterwards the police will step aside and some of us will get killed.”
In an informal settlement in East Rand, groups of men who claimed they took part in the “war” of 2008 have told foreign migrants and refugees to leave the country before 11 July.
“We sat down and talked and said let us leave them until the World Cup is coming to our country,” said one, who admitted he broke the law to “protect his country from foreigners” in 2008.
“If we fight now, maybe they will stop 2010 ... after that there is no one who can come to us and say don’t fight,” he added.
Cormsa has urged the government to act against xenophobia to try to defuse the risk of further violence. It has asked authorities to punish officials have used the threat violence to intimidate foreign nationals.
On May 12, 2008, a series of riots started in Alexandra township, northeast Johannesburg, targeting migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the weeks that followed, the violence spread to other informal settlements in the Gauteng province, Durban and Cape Town, and then to the rest of the country. Sixty-two people were killed during the clashes.
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