South Africa: Two Refugees Dead and Many Injured in Attack

On the afternoon of 7 June, attacks started against mostly Somali-owned shops in Mamelodi Extension 6, a township northeast of Pretoria. The motive for the attacks is not known. A group of over 100 people used the cover of an electricity black-out in the area to loot and burn approximately 50 shops. One shop keeper was shot dead and one is missing, feared dead. Police in the area did little to protect targeted shops or to assist in the evacuation of people and property. It is also alleged by refugees in the area that the police seemed more interested in verifying the legal status of the shop owners than preventing the crimes that were being perpetrated in front of them.

By Sunday 8 June, a vehicle from the local cluster policing unit had been deployed to the area and managed to dissuade groups of On 9 June, shop owners in Nellmapius, an area just outside of Mamelodi, were reporting being under attack. By later that afternoon, shop keepers across Mamelodi were being attacked and their shops and property looted. Refugee groups from outside Mamelodi tried to assist with the evacuation of shops but came under attack themselves. One vehicle was destroyed. By the end of the night, 10 shops had been evacuated but 25 more shops had been looted. By early afternoon of 10 June a new wave of attacks and looting in Mamelodi East was underway. The failure of concerted police action to protect the lives and property of refugees in the Mamelodi area is leaving many at risk.

These attacks in Mamelodi have occurred against a backdrop of ongoing and widespread targeted violence against refugees and migrants in South Africa. In the first two and a half months of 2014, similar incidents were recorded in seven provinces of South Africa. Around 1,000 refugees and migrants, including family members of shop-keepers, were displaced as a result of looting and destruction of property in 300 small businesses and a number of refugees were reportedly killed. In late March, approximately 600 people were displaced as a result of looting and property destruction in over 150 shops in one single location in Mpumalanga (a province in the east of South Africa). Furtherincidents have continued to be reported throughout April and May.In some cases, humanitarian, refugee and civil societ organisations working with some local or Public Order police units have managed to avert or mitigate the worst effects of this violence.

Amnesty International remains concerned that in the six years since the large-scale violence and displacements of 2008, the South African authorities have not put in place any systematic measures of prevention and protection.

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