Three years on the fear still remains
AS the international community celebrates World Refugee Day today, many families are still struggling to rebuild their lives more than three years after the xenophobic attacks in South Africa
Thousands of foreigners were forced to flee their homes at the height of xenophobic violence in May 2008 when more than 62 people were killed.
Abilio Quana, a "loving father and good husband", from Mozambique fled his home in Ramaphosa, near Reiger Park in Ekurhuleni, at the height of the xenophobic attacks.
The 61-year-old miner was forced to move to Carletonville. Now, he only sees his wife of 10 years, Nombulelo Tshoni, and five children for a few hours every two months.
"We last saw him last month. He arrived home at about 9pm and left at 6am, while many people were still asleep. My children and I miss him so much. When he is home we are not entirely free because we fear the attacks will happen again.
"Somalian shop owners were recently attacked. If only we had enough money to buy a house and move away from here," Tshoni said.
She said all she and her children wanted was for people to accept that foreigners were "humans too".
"They don't deserve to live in fear in an African country."
The SA Human Rights Commission (HRC) yesterday called on people to "honour refugees and recognise the richness and diversity they bring to our society".
The HRC viewed World Refugee Day as an opportunity for the South African government, as well as other governments across the world, to reaffirm the values on which international agreements on refugee protection are based.
"It is also a time for all sectors of society to reflect on their roles, to examine, form and strengthen partnerships on how best to find lasting solutions to the challenges faced by refugees," said the commission's spokesperson Vincent Moaga.
"South Africa is seen by many, particularly by those who are less fortunate and who have been forced to flee their countries of origin due to conflict, civil strife, poor governance and general human rights violations, as a shining beacon of hope. South Africa represents their dreams and aspirations of a better future," he said.