UN rights chief Pillay slams xenophobic attacks in South Africa

October 8th, 2008 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Oct 8 (DPA) United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned the brutal slaying of a Somali family in South Africa and urged the government to take measures to protect foreigners from xenophobic attacks.Sahra Omar Farah, her two teenage sons, one of whom was deaf and her 12-year-old daughter were stabbed to death Friday in a frenzied attack at a small store run by fellow Somalis in rural Eastern Cape province.

Initial signs showed the woman and her daughter had also been sexually assaulted.

“Xenophobic attacks unfortunately occur regularly in quite a few countries, but this is one of the most vicious examples we have heard of recently, outside war zones,” South African-born Pillay said in a statement Tuesday.

The deaths were all the more tragic given that the family had fled fighting in Somalia for what they believed was the safety of South Africa, Pillay said.

The so-called Rainbow Nation has been gripped by rising xenophobia in recent years, peaking in May in a two-week orgy of violence against foreigners.

Over 62 people were killed and tens of thousands of others displaced, when residents of squatter camps and townships turned on African migrants living in their midst, accusing them of taking their jobs, housing and women and/or being involved in crime.

The attacks also provided a cover for widespread looting and destruction of the migrants’ property.

Before that outbreak, Somali shopowners in particularly had been regularly attacked in recurring, sporadic incidents around the country.

As South Africa closes the last of the temporary camps set up to accommodate refugees from May’s attacks, Pillay warned: “The authorities should take particular care not to place those still in camps after the May violence back into dangerous situations.”

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