Stateless in South Africa: ‘They were setting people alight’

In the third of a four-part series on South Africa’s stateless children, a woman describes fleeing violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2012, only to face discrimination and the fear of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, as well as the struggle to provide care for her undocumented children.

Beatrice Faida, 24: ‘They are killing people, setting people alight’
Now aged 24, Beatrice Faida fled violence in the DRC with her two small children in tow more than five years ago.

She is one of many thousands of displaced persons and refugees from across the African continent to have made their way to South Africa in search of safety and a better life. But since she arrived in South Africa, she has found herself embroiled in yet more turmoil.

While undocumented refugees and migrants struggle to get access to schooling, employment and healthcare, they have also endured a rise in xenophobic attacks.

The most recent spate of violence was triggered in August 2019 by the death of a minibus driver in Pretoria. He was shot, allegedly while attempting to intervene in a drug deal involving Nigerians.

Twelve people died in the resulting protests, as crowds of locals attacked foreigners and looted foreign-owned shops before setting them alight. Riots spread across the country.

In October, hundreds of migrants and refugees camped out in front of the United Nations High Commissioner’s Office for Refugees (UNHCR) in a Pretoria suburb, demanding help and protection from the escalating violence.

By the sixth week of the sit-in, community leaders reported that more than 600 people were camped outside the UN buildings, requesting to be resettled in a country where they would be safe.

In November, the crowd was dispersed by police, and the migrants and refugees evicted from the camp.

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