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Shadows on the World Cup: migrants under threat 0

CAPE TOWN/PRETORIA – It is the World Cup dark side, the side nobody wants (and can) talk about. The South African social sector is in turmoil: rumours say that after the end of the World Cup, new clashes against migrants will explode.

In May 2008, groups of black South Africans attacked migrants of other African countries, who where living in poor areas of numerous big cities, causing 60 victims in few days.

Since that event, the South African police didn’t report new xenophobic crime. But in November 2009, the South African residents of numerous townships of Cape Town expelled more than 1,600 people – among whom there were 187 children. Their houses were destroyed and their goods stolen. Now, they live in a camp at De Doorns, a rural area one hour and half far from the city.

The “Scalabrini centre” of Cape Town, founded by the Scalabrini missionaries and managed by a group of international operators and volunteers, is one of the few help centres for refugees.  “We are worried,” says Daniele Boccaloni, the centre coordinator. “We have registered new threats against single persons and ethnic groups. Some groups of people from the townships are very clear: after the World Cup there new attacks against migrants will take place and they will be forced to leave the country.”

Local associations who give assistance to refugees have gathered for a campaign, which aim to promote awareness among politicians and local communities. Instead of clearly stand against xenophobia the government avoids the problem – the NGOs claim – registering xenophobic attacks only when it is inevitable.

16 years after the end of apartheid, the challenge of cultural diversity is still there. A recent survey of the Institute for justice and reconciliation caused a certain sensation among people. It says that apartheid still exists in South African society: 24% of South Africans don’t speak with a person of a different race in a single day, 46% don’t socialize with people of different races in their houses or friends’ homes, 39% think that people of other races are “unreliable” and 59% find difficulties in understanding other races traditions.

Even cities are divided at a racial level. With few exceptions, areas are divided into black districts, areas for whites and areas where the so-called “coloured” – the half-caste and South Africans with Asian origins – live.

In recent years this situation has worsened, with the arrival of African migrants from neighbour countries, escaping from wars, like people from the DRC, or collapsing countries, like migrants from Zimbabwe.

Parts of the South African population don’t make any difference between refugees, irregular migrants or people with documents. They are all hated and blamed for “stealing jobs” or “the population freedom” to supply their needs, as two 2008 reports on clashes published by Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch revealed.

Tension is still high, as a fresh episode – linked to the World Cup – has showed. In Gauteng province, the public transport department asked “Red Ants”, a group of private security guards, to “clean” the area near Ellis Park stadium and remove migrants with violence. Representatives of local civil society organizations protested, and “Red Ants” answered. “This is our land and we have the right to help the authorities to remove them. If the municipality asks us to destroy these cockroaches, we will do it and raze their houses.” The “Cape Times” expert on migration Michael Neocosmos – professor at the Wester Cape university – has written it clearly: it is the same language that was used in Rwanda during the genocide.

Other media underline how delicate is the issue. As IPS Africa reports, perhaps Africa’s World Cup began in earnest on June 16, when a despondent green and gold-clad crowd began leaving the Loftus Versfeld stadium even before the end of South Africa’s heavy defeat to Uruguay. And migrant African fans felt the first touch of cold post-tournament reality.

Click here to read the full IPS article

By Emanuela Citterio

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi