A group of 4,000 people who appeared to be foreign nationals set a barricade on fire in a major intersection of Durban’s Point district Tuesday, News24 reports.
Authorities appeared to be engaged in mediation effort with leaders of the mob. Earlier, police fired bullets at a crowd of nearly 2,000 locals after a stand-off between Pakistani shop owners and locals, according to News24.
South African police say a wave of attacks started last week in Durban when locals accused a supermarket of firing workers and hiring foreigners to replace them.
Bloomberg reports that a 14-year-old boy was allegedly shot and killed during looting of immigrants’ shops Monday night, bringing the death toll from the violence to at least five. About 48 suspects have been arrested since April 11.
Attacks flared up in January against Ethiopian, Somali and Pakistani immigrants in Johannesburg townships after a Somali shop owner shot and killed a 14-year-old boy during an alleged burglary.
This is the worst anti-foreigner violence since 2008, when about 60 people were killed and 50,000 displaced from their homes, Bloomberg reports.
Three camps have been set up near Durban to accommodate 1,272-to-1,472 immigrants who have fled their homes.
The government blames criminals, not xenophobia, for much of the violence. But “we cannot ignore the fact that it’s stemming from South Africans saying that they don’t want foreign nationals in the country, so there’s an element of xenophobia,” said Nomagugu Mlawe, an attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights in Durban, in a Bloomberg interview. “The communities and societies are preying on the most vulnerable and taking out the frustrations on that vulnerable group of people.”
When refugees and asylum seekers arrive in South Africa and present themselves to the authorities, the majority get documents that allow them to stay legally, said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, Southern Africa representative for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, in a statement. “To lump them in the category of illegal migrants or unlawful residents is not only incorrect but also serves to stigmatize them.”