‘Refugees should stay in camps’
Johannesburg - The attitudes of South Africans to migrants may be softening, but research shows that one third of people canvassed still believe refugees should live in camps on the borders, and more than half say they still don’t want want refugees anywhere in the country.
More than a third of people canvassed also still associate migrants with crime, a quarter say they are ready to join forces to stop migrants operating a business in South Africa, and 41 percent are all for mandatory HIV testing of refugees.
While the researchers involved in the 2010 Southern African Migration Programme suggest that growing contact between migrants and South Africans may be having a positive effect on the attitudes of South Africans, they warn of an “unyielding cohort” willing to use violence to address the perceived migrant “threat”.
More than 2 000 South Africans, more than half of whom describe themselves as “working-class citizens”, are canvassed for the study every four years.
The latest survey was conducted in November and December 2010, and showed that the number of South Africans who didn’t want refugees in the country had dropped from 75 percent in 2006 to 57 percent. In 2006, half of the respondents wanted refugees to live in camps on the borders of South Africa, and by 2010 a third of respondents still felt the same way.
By 2010, more people (36 percent) believed that refugees warranted police protection, up from just 28 percent in 2006. In 2010, 39 percent of people canvassed also still associated migrants with crime (49 percent in 2006).
The researchers said the 2006 data showed that xenophobia was inversely tied to income – the higher the income, the lower the xenophobic scores.
But by 2010, levels of xenophobia increased with increasing income. Those in the lowest income group were least xenophobic, and black South Africans were also less xenophobic than other racial groups.
But the study warned of an “unyielding cohort”, and said that unless there was a concerted effort to change attitudes, “migrants and refugees will continue to be soft targets of xenophobic discrimination in South Africa”.
The latest research showed that a quarter of respondents were ready to jointly prevent migrants from neighbouring countries from operating a business, and a similar number were also willing to prevent migrants from moving into their neighbourhoods.
Also, just less than half (41 percent) of black and white respondents believed migrants were carriers of disease. The same number also wanted mandatory HIV testing of refugees, and 18 percent said HIV treatment should not be afforded to refugees.
“Globally, South Africa is still the country most opposed to immigration, where nearly 80 percent of citizens either support prohibition on the entry of migrants, or would like to place strict limits on it,” the study said. A quarter of South Africans wanted migrants deported regardless of their skills status, and 63 percent wanted electrified fences on borders.
More than 60 percent of respondents of all races also believed migrants took jobs away from locals.
Migrants from southern Africa were preferred to those from the rest of the continent, with Nigerians the least favoured.
Migrants from Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland were perceived more positively than those from Mozambique and Zimbabwe.