Monday, August 15, 2022

Humanitarian bodies on alert for xenophobic attacks in South Africa

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) have set their machinery up and running in anticipation of possible xenophobic attacks against people of foreign origin in South Africa in the aftermath of the recently concluded World Cup games.

On that basis the IOM has undertaken to continue to work with the Governments of South Africa and Zimbabwe on issues concerning the voluntary or forced returns of Zimbabweans from South Africa.

IOM has said in a statement that although neither the government of South Africa has approached either of the international humanitarian bodies as far as they were aware, recent reports in the media about fears of xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans (and other foreigners) after the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa were not negligible.

“The media reports have also indicated an upsurge in the number of Zimbabweans returning home in anticipation of the alleged attacks,” posited Harare based IOM Communications Officer, Zuzana Jankechova, in a statement.

She pointed out that it was partly on the strength of the reports they are keeping the situation under the radar.

Again, on account of IOM’s previous experience “It has been resolved that even though we have not been approached by either Governments or individuals wishing to be assisted to return, should either Government in seek IOM assistance in the repatriation of Zimbabweans, we (in collaboration with the relevant Government and aid agencies) would be in a position to assist.

When asked about their awareness in the event the situation spilled over into Botswana, the Secretary General of the Botswana Red Cross Society, Mabel Rammekwa could not feign ignorance.

She said, “BRCS is always in a state of readiness for any natural or humanitarian disaster, and on that basis alone I would want to believe that on account of the regional implications of any possible or envisaged xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa, the Red Cross stands posted.”

Although reliable sources have intimated to the Sunday Standard that all Red Cross Societies in the Sothern Africa Development Community(SADC) region have been fore warned by the ICRC to brace up for any eventuality, Rammekwa declined to confirm or deny, urging this reporter to verify the allegations with ICRC office in Harare.

It has been recorded that in response to the xenophobic attacks that occurred in De Doorns in the Western Cape Province in November 2009, IOM in collaboration with the Government of Zimbabwe and South African authorities facilitated the voluntary return of 169 Zimbabweans.
IOM then ensured provision for the returnees in the form of medical screening, facilitation of travel document issuance, transport and food.
“Thus, should need arise, IOM and the relevant government authorities will reactivate the mechanism that was used to assist returnees from De Doorns,” read part of the statement from IOM dated 16 July 2010.

In addition, it was stated that apart assisting those who would have elected to voluntarily return, IOM has the capacity to provide assistance through the Beitbridge Reception and Support Centre for those returning under voluntary or forced circumstances.

The Centre offers humanitarian assistance in terms of medical screening, food and transportation, including assistance to unaccompanied minors and reunification with their families.

Although Government of Botswana has played deaf to the call to deliberate on a clearly pronounced policy on migration so that it can harness the phenomenon rather than suffer from, millions are spent annually on returning Zimbabweans to their home country despite the “abnormal” political and economic situation there.

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