City Press, 23 March 2008

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Somalis living in Cape Town have grown weary of the attacks against them and say they would prefer to go home to their war-torn country. Following the looting and torching of their shops in Zwenetemba, near Worcester, earlier this month, a group of Somalis has asked the University of Cape Town Law Clinic to help them get the government to repatriate them. Two Somalis were arrested after they allegedly shot a suspected thief in Zwenetemba. This apparently sparked anger among the local residents who attacked the Somalis. Sheik Amir Hussein of the Somali Community Board said the latest attack was the last straw for many Somalis. “There have been coordinated attacks on the Somalian community for many years. Though crime is a problem in general, the attacks against Somalis have been out of proportion to their numbers,” said Hussein. He said the Somalis had fled from violence and that South Africa was not the safe haven that they had expected. Since 2006, about 100 Somalis have been killed in Cape Town in hotspots such as Philippi, Du Noon, Masiphumelele and Delft. The UN High Commission for Refugees hosted a forum with the refugees and Cape Town residents in 2006. The city committed itself to promoting diversity, inclusiveness, democracy and human rights for all. Braam Hanekom of the People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty advocacy group said the department of home affairs’ slow asylum procedure was hampering refugee integration. “The refugees suffer greatly at the hands of immigration authorities. They are failed by the authorities and this attitude is reflected on the ground,” said Hanekom. The Western Cape government has consistently denied that the attacks against Somalis are related to xenophobia and have blamed them on crime. Hussein said other nationalities seeking sanctuary in South Africa were not being attacked. “Somalis cannot defend themselves because the law does not allow them to carry weapons. It takes great effort to start their businesses, but they often lose them in one day or lose their lives. It is not fair,” said Hussein. University of Cape Town Law Clinic human rights lawyer Fatima Khan said it was incumbent upon the police to protect everyone in the country. She said her department would help people who wanted to leave South Africa.