Wednesday, June 11, 2014

South Africa: Two refugees dead, many injured in attack

Source: Amnesty

Attacks on foreign-owned shops in Mamelodi, Pretoria, have left two refugees dead and dozens reported injured. At least 75 shops have been looted. The situation in the township northeast of South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria, remains tense. Refugees and migrants are being evacuated from the area by civic groups but there is concern for the safety of those assisting evacuation.

On the afternoon of 7 June, attacks started against mostly Somali-owned shops in Mamelodi Extension 6, a township northeast of Pretoria. The motive for the attacks is not known. A group of over 100 people used the cover of an electricity black-out in the area to loot and burn approximately 50 shops. One shop keeper was shot dead and one is missing, feared dead. Police in the area did little to protect targeted shops or to assist in the evacuation of people and property. It is also alleged by refugees in the area that the police seemed more interested in verifying the legal status of the shop owners than preventing the crimes that were being perpetrated in front of them.

By Sunday 8 June, a vehicle from the local cluster policing unit had been deployed to the area and managed to dissuade groups of youths from carrying out further attacks.

On 9 June, shop owners in Nellmapius, an area just outside of Mamelodi, were reporting being under attack. By later that afternoon, shop keepers across Mamelodi were being attacked and their shops and property looted. Refugee groups from outside Mamelodi tried to assist with the evacuation of shops but came under attack themselves. One vehicle was destroyed. By the end of the night, 10 shops had been evacuated but 25 more shops had been looted. By early afternoon of 10 June a new wave of attacks and looting in Mamelodi East was underway.

The failure of concerted police action to protect the lives and property of refugees in the Mamelodi area is leaving many at risk.