South Africa foreigners displaced by xenophobic attacks anxious over future – UN

14 August 2008The United Nations refugee agency is assisting foreigners – mostly Zimbabweans – forced to flee their homes in South Africa by xenophobic violence, as the deadline looms for tomorrow’s closure by the Gauteng provincial government of all six temporary shelters, housing 6,000 people. Gloria, a Zimbabwean asylum-seeker who spoke on the condition that her real name not be used, has made her home for the past two months in a Johannesburg facility that will be shut down tomorrow.“I have sleepless nights thinking about this,” the mother of two boys and a girl who also cares for her HIV-positive mother said.Back home in Zimbabwe, she lived an affluent lifestyle thanks to the well-paying job of her husband, who had two university degrees. But her life was turned upside down when he was murdered in 2005 for his work as an activist for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).“Having to start (life) over in a new country, with no place to stay, moving to a shelter when I was the madam of my own house back in Zimbabwe, is like losing everything including my identity,” Gloria said.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pretoria, along with its partner the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), is helping all asylum-seekers and undocumented Zimbabweans seeking to reintegrate into local communities.“The assistance is for a period of two months, after which we expect people to be on the road to re-establishing themselves and their livelihoods,” said Irfan Adil, Associate Programme Officer with the agency.He added, however, that the most vulnerable can have their cases re-evaluated and possibly receive further help.Gloria, expressing appreciation for UNHCR’s support, said that she understands the temporary nature of the shelters, which the Government made clear when they were set up in the wake of xenophobic violence in May.“It is time to move on but I just need a little more time [to] get my plan in place,” she said. read more

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