ESCAPING FOREIGNERS SEND WRONG MESSAGE TO LOCALS

Mail & Guardian, 1 June 2008

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More than 20 000 Mozambicans have fled South Africa in the wake of the attacks on foreigners and 25 000 Zimbabwean nationals have indicated that they wish to leave, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). However, refugee lobbyists warn that the exodus may be temporary and the influx of foreigners to South Africa from neighbouring countries may soon resume. “They came for a reason and that reason is still here, so they will come back,” said Loren Landau, director of the forced migration studies programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. Landau said refugees will adopt a wait-and-see approach. If there is no resurgence of attacks, they will start returning. He warned that the repatriation efforts by embassies and other organisations are fanning the flames of xenophobia. “They are showing that by killing a few foreigners you can get rid of a whole lot of them.” Diplomatic sources said the flow of refugees to Mozambique is already drying up. “The perspective in Mozambique is that at least, in South Africa, you have work and people will return to that,” said one. “Fear pushes them, but desperation will bring them back.” The Zimbabwean authorities indicated this week that they are helping at least 600 Zimbabwean nationals return. “We have 10 buses and three lorries for their luggage that will take people home if they want to go. They’ll come back again to get more people, if necessary,” said Simon Khaya Moyo, Zimbabwean High Commissioner. “The government will help them when they get home. There will be the provision of land and we have embarked on a programme of building houses.” The IOM said in a statement that Zimbabweans are leaving for Zambia rather than making use of their government’s offer of assistance, because they fear persecution. Immigrants from Ethiopia, Tanzania and Malawi have appealed for help to get home, but because they have lost their belongings and have no money, they cannot return, said IOM spokesperson Nde Ndifonka.