Updated: April 16, 2015 5:32:15 pm
The fear among some foreigners and South Africans that anti-immigrant attacks will escalate reached such a peak Thursday that foreigners sought refuge in camps and a police station, a peace march was planned and the president was to address the nation.
People began gathering in a sports stadium in the coastal city of Durban for a march denouncing the attacks. The march will be led by the city’s mayor and the premier of the KwaZulu Natal province. Among those who have been targeted are citizens of other African countries and of South Asia.
With unemployment and poverty levels high in South Africa, the immigrants are accused of taking jobs that should go to South Africans. Locals have burned and looted foreign-owned shops in January this year. Violence reignited in recent weeks after the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini, said immigrants should “take their bags and go.”
Police said attacks in Durban have left five people dead in recent days. More than 2,000 foreigners are staying in camps on sports fields around the city, afraid to return home, according to Gift of the Givers, an aid organization.
Dozens of foreigners flocked to a police station outside of Johannesburg and stayed there overnight, police spokesman Col. Lungelo Dlamini said. The foreigners told police they feared for their safety. The Primrose Methodist Church, which housed foreigners after similar attacks in 2008, is preparing to take people in again.
President Jacob Zuma was to make a statement later Thursday in front of Parliament on the attacks, with his words carried live on TV. Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane will on Friday meet with African diplomats based in South Africa to discuss the government’s efforts to protect immigrants, her office said in a statement.
Amnesty International criticized the South African government for its slow reaction to the attacks, and said authorities should have devised a better response plan after attacks earlier this year.
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