Foreigners: Dozens killed, thousands displaced in SA

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Violence and looting have been reported in the town of Evaton, south of Johannesburg, after locals staged a protest over jobs in the area.

JOHANNESBURG - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says an estimated 62 foreigners have been killed in South Africa this year between January and May.

This emerged during panel discussions at the annual Public Interest Law Gathering at the University of Witwatersrand.

UNHCR says an estimated 130 incidents of attacks on foreigners have been reported since the beginning of the year.

Seventy three people were seriously injured and some 5,000 others displaced.  Last year, 238 incidents were reported – 120 people were killed and 7,500 others displaced.

The organisation says 154 people were seriously injured in attacks.

“In that injuries figure we have 30 or 29 people that were burnt alive in their shops. So they survived, but when you see those victims basically you are talking about hate crime. We are moving to something different,” said UNHCR Regional Community Services Officer, Alphonse Munyaneza.

“The displacement was very big (2012), particularly the incident surrounding Bloemfontein, Botshabelo etc. This was huge, we have a displacement in eight different locations.

"More than 300 shops [were] hit at the same time and then came, at the end of 2012, the Limpopo problem,” added Munyaneza.

In 2011, 154 incidents were reported and an estimated 99 people killed and 100 others seriously injured.

“We know now how to react, we learned our craft during those two years (2001 and 2012) and we know how to stop an incident," he said.

"There are three elements. [The first is] information – early information. Then we improve the response of police – if you remember that in 2010 the police&39;s response was between two or three hours before they came to the scene.

"[In] 2011 and 2012 we saw police responding within minutes to a call. The other element is education awareness,” said Munyaneza.

Among the incidents reported in 2013 was unrest in Diepsloot in May following the arrest of a Somali businessman for allegedly shooting dead two men. 

In the same month, foreigners were attacked and their shops looted in Evaton, Sebokeng and Orange Farm.

Violence also broke out in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape where a Somali shopkeeper was killed.