Migrant Rights Advocates Face Threats Amid Rising Xenophobia in South Africa

Migrant rights advocates in South Africa face increasing threats as xenophobic rhetoric and policies gain traction, risking further marginalization and violence against vulnerable communities.

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Israel Ojoko
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Migrant Rights Advocates Face Threats Amid Rising Xenophobia in South Africa

Migrant Rights Advocates Face Threats Amid Rising Xenophobia in South Africa

Migrant rights advocates in South Africa are facing increasing threats and attacks as xenophobic rhetoric and policies gain traction in the country. Thifulufheli Sinthumule, director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, has received warnings from anti-migrant organizations to cease his advocacy work or face consequences.

Despite making up only 4% of South Africa's population, migrants have been scapegoated for government failings such as poor healthcare, high unemployment, and crime. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has ramped up anti-migrant rhetoric in the face of challenges from rivals who want undocumented foreigners deported. Vigilante groups like Operation Dudula have attacked migrants and destroyed their property.

The government has also proposed overhauling immigration laws, which could see South Africa withdraw from international refugee treaties and repatriate foreigners. With May elections approaching, Sinthumule is worried there will be increased "scapegoating and electioneering at the expense of migrants."

The rising xenophobia and threats against migrant rights advocates in South Africa highlight the precarious situation faced by vulnerable populations in the country. The scapegoating of migrants for systemic issues risks further marginalization and violence against these communities.

Sinthumule's organization is not alone in facing threats for their work. In 2022, human rights defender Elvis Nyathi was brutally murdered by a mob in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, after going door-to-door to campaign against xenophobia. Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International South Africa, stated that "Elvis Nyathi's brutal murder shows that South Africa is still failing to protect refugees and migrants ."

Key Takeaways

  • Migrant rights advocates in South Africa face increasing threats and attacks.
  • Migrants scapegoated for government failings despite being 4% of population.
  • Proposed immigration law changes could withdraw from refugee treaties.
  • Xenophobia and violence risk further marginalization of migrant communities.
  • Human rights defender Elvis Nyathi brutally murdered for anti-xenophobia work.