UNHCR condemns growing xenophobic attacks in KZN

The UNHCR’s Kate Pond says they're deeply concerned about the protests, saying hardships as a result of COVID-19 have affected foreign-nationals as much as South Africans.

Several foreign-owned shops were looted this week and then forced to shut down in Durban. Picture: EWN

DURBAN - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday added its voice in condemning growing xenophobic sentiments in Durban.

Several foreign-owned shops were looted this week and then forced to shut down following an illegal protest by some members of the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veteran’s Association in the Durban CBD.

The UNHCR’s Kate Pond told Eyewitness News that they were deeply concerned about the protests, saying hardships as a result of COVID-19 have affected foreign-nationals as much as South Africans.

Pond said foreign nationals couldn’t be blamed for the country’s economic and social challenges.

“It’s vitally important to highlight that refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants are not responsible for these hardships. Many of them are struggling too. Above all UNHCR calls for solidarity. COVID-19 and poverty don’t discriminate and neither should we.”

She said while the protests were primarily a security issue, they were watching them closely.

“UNHCR is monitoring the situation closely through our partners and community networks. And any pertinent information that we receive through our networks is quickly escalated to the relevant authorities for swift action to restore calm.”

At the same time, the African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal has distanced itself from the protests.

Spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said members who were found behind the violence would be punished.

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