Xenophobia threats put HRC on alert

POLICE and the Human Rights Commission are taking action in response to rumours that xenophobic attacks will flare up after the World Cup.

POLICE and the Human Rights Commission are taking action in response to rumours that xenophobic attacks will flare up after the World Cup.

"We have received wind of rumours of xenophobic attacks and we are not taking it lightly," HRC chairperson Lawrence Mushwana said.

He said there had been a number of meetings with police, community leaders and government departments.

"We are certain that as we have met with police nothing will happen. We are monitoring the situation. We are ready," he said.

Mushwana was speaking yesterday at the launch of a project to deal with discrimination and xenophobia held in Parktown, Johannesburg.

The HRC also received $100000 (about R756000) from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mushwana said the HRC would use the money to educate communities about the dangers of discrimination and xenophobia.

The attacks on immigrants and refugees in May and October 2008 resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people and the displacement of 100000.

Last November, similar attacks drove 3000 foreigners, including refugees and asylum-seekers from Zimbabwe, from their shacks in Cape Town.

Mushwana said the outbreak of violence caught the authorities off-guard.

"We want to ensure that we have close working relations with other departments that were affected by the xenophobic attacks," he said.

Police also confirmed that threats of attacks on foreigners were doing the rounds.

"There is a lot that has been done to gather information regarding the rumours. We are engaging community leaders on the matter," police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said. He said police investigations had revealed nothing.

"There have been no reports of incidents related to xenophobia. But we are not ignoring the rumours," he said.

The rumours began surfacing before the World Cup began on June 11.

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