The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it is concerned about the latest anti-immigrant violence in South Africa and warns of a further escalation if the root causes of the xenophobic riots are not tackled.
IOM condemns the spate of anti-immigrant violence organized by individual citizens and community associations in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg, and in the South African capital of Pretoria.
It is calling for calm and for an end to the attacks, looting and burning of property owned by foreign nationals earlier this week.
South African protesters accuse the African migrants of taking their jobs and being responsible for a rise in crime.
IOM spokesman Itayi Viriri says those who have grievances against the migrants should not take the law into their own hands. Instead, they should air their complaints with the local authorities.
“There is no real tangible evidence that there is an increase in crime because of migrants. On the contrary, research shows that immigrants who go to South Africa do not harm the long-term employment prospects and wages of native-born workers. In fact, quite a lot of them create small businesses. And, in fact, most of those who are being targeted now are small-business owners,” he said.
Viriri told VOA that IOM fears the violence could get worse because migrants say they plan to mobilize themselves for their own protection.
“Right now, what is happening is that we have also a situation whereby some of the migrants, unlike last time, say they are going to protect themselves and by that virtue sort of escalate the whole situation. Before, we did not have maybe a situation whereby the migrants said they were going to stand up for themselves or not wait for police protection. … Obviously, that is very worrisome because it escalates the whole situation far more than it is,” Viriri said.
Indeed, a standoff between anti-immigrant protesters and migrants Friday during a march organized by the Mamelodi Concerned Residents in Pretoria turned violent. Police had to use tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to try to disperse the groups.