Police in South Africa Arrest Over 100 People Protesting Xenophobia

The police in Cape Town, South Africa, arrested over 100 refugees protesting xenophobia. The demonstrators were gathered opposite the UN refugee office to access protection from anti-immigrant attacks that have been ongoing for several weeks. When they would not disperse, the police descended on them with water cannons to disperse them, arresting many of them in the process.

Police later disclosed they arrested the people because they “failed to heed the call to disperse”. Many people fled to a closeby church to evade arrest. While the arrest progressed, police officers with riot shields and batons moved through the crowd, with women crying and children holding tightly in fear to their mothers.

Police authorities said they were carrying out an October 18 court order granted a landlord by the court to remove the over 300 people camping in a protest opposite the UN refugee office complex.

Advocacy groups and human rights organizations condemned the dispersal, saying it was violent and inhuman in the way police arrested and dragged people away. With a wave of xenophobic attacks hitting the country, shops and businesses belonging to immigrants and foreigners were looted and razed down in recent months.

The police in Johannesburg and Pretoria have arrested over 700 people since the attacks on foreigners resurfaced earlier this year, with more than 15 people killed in the attacks. World leaders condemned the xenophobic attacks, which are aimed mainly at Nigerians, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa saying it was caused by the level of unemployment in the country. The Nigerian government dispatched a plane to airlift hundreds of Nigerians away from South Africa in the heat of the attacks.

While many South Africans complained that foreigners have taken over their jobs, many foreigners revealed they are not able to work because they lacked necessary papers to work in the country. Amnesty International revealed that 96% of asylum seekers have had their applications rejected, with about 190,000 cases undergoing reviews and appeals. Due to lack of documentation, immigrants without papers are not able to work or access quality education, housing, and healthcare, among other things.