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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cutthroat Life for Immigrants in South Africa

Hard to be an immigrant in South Africa. Discrimination, assault, threats, harassment are daily for those who chose to leave their countries.

They've come to South Africa to work. But their lives are far from easy. African immigrants from Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia regularly suffer discrimination, threats or police harassment. It is not uncommon for their businesses to be looted or vandalized. They are accused by the South Africans of stealing their jobs. Although South Africa is mentioned as an example for the black continent to follow due to its economic development, the unemployment rate is nearly 25%.

The country has 2 million immigrants on its soil, or 3% of its population. But South Africans take a dim view of the fact that immigrants associate to buy wholesale and sell for less. And they do not hesitate to extend credit to loyal customers. Another advantage of these traders is that they open early and close late. "South Africa is a rather xenophobic country", according to Gwada Majange, spokesman for the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants (CoRMSA). "This year, for example, we had many attacks in the country, primarily targeting owners of grocery stores."

In July, at least 500 people have been displaced after attacks in Botshabelo, a township (slum), while shops were set ablaze in the outskirts of Cape Town. During 2008, the xenophobic riots against foreigners left many dozens of people dead.

Immigrants are excluded!

Immigrants' representatives have accused the authorities of complicity and of supporting this xenophobia. In cities, it is better for immigrants to carry their ID documents when they go out because the police do not hesitate to make life difficult for immigrants who do not have them on, says a Cameroonian. "They arrest people who do not have papers, and even those who do" observed Jean-Pierre Lukamba, vice-president of the African Diaspora Forum, a federation of associations of refugees and immigrants. According to him, "there are regular raids, roundups, sometimes they don't even tell you why they arrest you. Some police officers may even tear your papers."

Discrimination also exists in the health field. In South Africa It is more difficult for an immigrant to be treated. "When you go to the hospital if you do not have papers in South Africa, it becomes very slow. There is a woman who has lost her child because of that", says Marc Gbaffou, President of the Forum.

Similarly, to find a job they face multiple barriers. "A lot of job vacancies are marked 'SA only' or 'Bring your ID' (South Africans only, bring your South African papers, ed.). Immigrants are excluded!", denounces Marc Gbaffou. He thinks that the authorities are lax about the situation and they do nothing to improve the living conditions of immigrants. He was referring to a project that the ANC, the ruling party, wants to put in place to restrict "the right of non-South Africans to buy or manage grocery stores or larger companies without having complied with certain legislation."

For the moment, the authorities have not given more details about this project. Associations fighting for the rights of immigrants are respected in the country. They will not hesitate to voice their discontent.
Source: Afrik via Fdesouche


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