Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Christian leaders appeal for end to xenophobic attacks to Immigrants in South Africa.

The Council of Zimbabwean Christian leaders in the UK has called for “rapid and effective measures” from the South African Government to curb the xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans and other African migrants there.

Dozens of migrants were killed and tens of thousands more sought refuge in makeshift shelters after a wave of xenophobic attacks broke out on May 11.

The Council of Zimbabwean Christian Leaders in the UK said it was “disturbed” by the violence against the migrants in Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa, mostly Zimbabweans who had fled to the country in a bid to escape the “brutality and crisis of governance” in Zimbabwe.

“We are compelled to express our sorrow at this exacerbation of their plight and outrage at the criminal assault on their humanity, by citizens of a country which only recently sought refuge and solidarity from its neighbours,” a statement from the Council read.

Need we remind them that their current leaders Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, and their Umkhonto Wesizwe comrades (members of the military wing of the African National Congress that fought against apartheid) were themselves refugees in SADC (South African Development Community) countries where they were welcomed, protected, trained and resourced often at risk to the host countries?

Today, those who enjoy their freedom on the back of our people's sacrifices are seen to have failed to support our people in their greatest hour of need.”

The South African Government has come under fire for its handling of the attacks, with aid agencies and UN officials expressing shock at the conditions in the refugee shelters. They say that most of the blankets, clothes, food and medical supplies distributed to refugees so far have come from NGOs and individual donations, with very little coming from the South African Government.

Mbeki, whose pro-business policies have been blamed by some for the violence, has condemned the attacks but held back from visiting the affected townships or shelters.

The Council urged Mbeki to enlist the help of the UNHCR in implementing a “humane policy” to protect refugees and condemn “clearly and unequivocally” the attacks, as well as bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Council concluded: “This highlights the need for the South African Government to revisit its foreign policy towards the Zimbabwean conflict and to demonstrate to its people that it is doing all in its power to resolve the political impasse in our country

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