South African authorities needed to tackle longstanding impunities to end its fight with xenophobia, Amnesty International South Africa said. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - South African authorities needed to tackle longstanding impunities to end its fight with xenophobia, Amnesty International South Africa's executive director, Shenilla Mohamed, said on Friday.

“Longstanding criminal justice failures and populist rhetoric are some of the reasons behind the latest round of xenophobic violence against refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in South Africa," Mohamed said.

“For many years, South African authorities have largely failed to address past outbreaks of xenophobic crimes that have been seen in the country since at least 2008, including bringing those suspected to be responsible to justice. Political leaders must stop making discriminatory and inflammatory remarks about migrants and foreign nationals especially during their election campaigns ahead of the polls."

Mohamed said that rather than making comments that risked fanning the flames of xenophobia, South African authorities should act to counter stereotypes, eradicate discrimination and foster greater equality and social cohesion in South Africa.

“South African authorities must ensure effective protection for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers against xenophobic attacks. The government must take concrete steps to hold suspected perpetrators to account. That begins with tackling impunity for past xenophobia-related crimes.”

On Friday, Home Affairs Minister, Siyabonga Cwele; International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu; and Police Minister, Bheki Cele met with the heads of the diplomatic missions represented in South Africa.

Cwele said that South Africa was spending significant amounts of money annually deporting illegal immigrants back to their countries of origin. He declined to state the exact amounts of money spent on the exercise while addressing the media in Pretoria.

Cwele said the significant amounts of money being spent on deportations had been disclosed during the closed-door meeting with diplomats.

Cele said the foreign envoys have committed to work with the government in a bid to coordinate the movement of people into and out of South Africa. Sisulu said South Africa welcomes foreign nationals, but they have to abide by the immigration rules.

Last week, more than 150 foreigners living in an informal settlement in Clare Estate in Durban had to flee the area after they were attacked by a group of men. Several messages were doing the rounds in South Africa, warning of protests against the employment of foreign nationals in the country.

South Africa has been battling with incidents of xenophobia since 2008.

African News Agency (ANA)