27 January 2015: International Organization for Migration (IOM) condemns the violent actions of Soweto residents against foreign nationals and their businesses in the past week. This has served as a painful reminder of the continued vulnerability of migrants in South Africa. As the migration agency that serves the interests of both local and foreign nationals, we call for the government to take urgent measures in order to protect the safety, the property and the dignity of all, including the foreign nationals.

Migrants are disproportionally affected by violent crime because of the areas in which they live and work, in which crime may be more predominant. Additionally, existing negative public perceptions of migrants may cause them to be specifically targeted. Migrants are often relatively easily recognizable, which makes it easier for criminals and mobs to single them out.

“Prejudices and stereotypes about migrants unfortunately fuel the sentiments of those who choose to loot and plunder the shops of hard-working shop owners, simply because of the ethnic background of these entrepreneurs. The misperception still exists that migrants come to South Africa to steal jobs and take advantage of the social system. In reality, many migrants create jobs and generate economic activity, which benefits South Africans as well” says Richard Ots, Chief of Mission for IOM South Africa.

We invite the government to engage in dialogue with migrants and civil society organizations on the role, the position and the image of migrants in the country. We commend the government for publicly taking a stand against looting; intolerance and discrimination, and we offer our support to help find ways to further promote the inclusiveness and multiculturalism that South Africa is famous for.