The experience of xenophobia in South Africa
In May 2008, xenophobic violence erupted in South Africa. The targets were
individuals who had migrated from the north in search of asylum. Emerging first in township
communities around Johannesburg, the aggression spread to other provinces. Sixty-two
people died, and 100,000 (20,000 in the Western Cape alone) were displaced. As the attacks
escalated across the country, thousands of migrants searched for refuge in police stations and
churches. Chilling stories spread about mobs armed with axes, metal bars, and clubs. The
mobs stormed from shack to shack, assaulted migrants, locked them in their homes, and set
the homes on fire.
The public reaction was one of shock and horror. The Los Angeles Times declared,
“Migrants Burned Alive in S. Africa.” The South African president at the time, Thabo
Mbeki, called for an end to “shameful and criminal attacks.” Commentators were stunned by
the signs of hatred of foreigners (xenophobia) that emerged in the young South African
The tragedy of the violence in South Africa was magnified by the fact that many of
the victims had fled from violence and persecution in their countries of origin. Amid
genocidal violations of human rights that had recently occurred in some countries in sub-
Saharan Africa, the new South Africa stood as a beacon of democracy and respect for human
dignity. With this openness in mind, many immigrants to South Africa sought safety and
refuge from the conflicts in their homelands. More than 43,500 refugees and 227,000 asylum
seekers now live in South Africa. The majority of people accorded refugee status came from
Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. South Africa also hosts thousands of
other migrants who remain undocumented.
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|Item Type:||Journal Article|
|Keywords:||South Africa, immigrants, refugees, xenophobia, violence, trauma|
|Subjects:||Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100)|
|Divisions:||Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health|
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
|Copyright Owner:||Copyright 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.|
|Deposited On:||04 Mar 2011 08:20|
|Last Modified:||11 Aug 2011 01:15|
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