Thousands protest against anti-immigrant riots in S. Africa

Updated 23 April 2015

Thousands protest against anti-immigrant riots in S. Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: Several thousand demonstrators marched through central Johannesburg on Thursday to protest against a spate of deadly attacks on immigrants, after further raids by the authorities on suspected gang hideouts.
Watched by police, crowds sang songs denouncing xenophobia and carried banners that read “We are all Africans” as migrant workers crowded balconies, shouting their support.
“This march sends an important message to the world, to Africans,” David Makhura, premier of Gauteng province, of which Johannesburg is the capital, told the demonstrators.
“We are going to defeat xenophobia like we defeated apartheid.
“We are here to make sure that South Africa is a country of peace for all.”
Soldiers were deployed in Johannesburg this week to aid police in raids on hostels housing South African men who are accused of targeting migrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries.
At least seven people have been killed in three weeks of unrest that have revived memories of xenophobic bloodshed in 2008, when 62 people were killed.
“I am here to make a stand, to say ‘Not in my name’,” Zain Mayet, 20, one of the marchers, told AFP.
“Keeping quiet makes me as guilty as those who are committing violence.
“We are here to demonstrate that not everyone in South Africa is a criminal who attacks foreign nationals.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and called for “all efforts” to be made to avoid future attacks.
“He welcomes the public expressions of the many South Africans who have been calling for peaceful coexistence and harmony with foreign nationals,” Ban’s spokesman said in a statement.

Two people were arrested late Wednesday when police, backed by soldiers, stormed a workers’ hostel in the city’s crowded Alexandra township.
In total, over 300 people have been detained.
The unrest erupted in the port city of Durban about three weeks ago and later spread to Johannesburg, the economic capital.
Many immigrants have been forced to flee their homes and abandon their small shops as marauding mobs hunted down foreigners at night.
“Over 5,000 people from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi still seek refuge in displacement camps,” Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF — Doctors Without Borders) said in a statement.
“Injured Malawian and Zimbabwean men told medics that they are too afraid to openly seek medical treatment for their wounds and fractures for fear of further attack.”
More than 20 years since the end of apartheid, many South Africans believe the lack of opportunities for young blacks and a severe jobs shortage has led to deep frustration.
One Mozambican man was stabbed to death in Alexandra township last Saturday in scenes that provoked widespread outrage after the killing was captured in graphic newspaper photographs.
Alexandra, where Nelson Mandela lived as a young man, is one of the most troubled parts of Johannesburg and is located next to the upmarket business district of Sandton.
President Jacob Zuma has pledged to tackle anti-migrant sentiment in South Africa and to address deep-rooted problems behind the attacks.
“South Africans are not xenophobic,” he said Wednesday. “If we don’t deal with the underlying issues, it will come back.”
Zuma gave few details of government plans, but said the violence was driven by “criminal elements” as well as friction between foreigners and locals.
The president will hold meetings on Friday with leaders representing South Africa’s immigrant communities.
Regional relations have been strained by the attacks, with Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique organizing for some worried citizens to return home.
Neighbouring Mozambique said more than 2,000 citizens had fled the violence.
Five buses also arrived back in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

Updated 25 January 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

  • Richard Ratcliffe says his jailed wife is ‘being held hostage’ by Tehran
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison

LONDON: The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed by Tehran over charges of espionage has urged the UK to be “tougher” with the regime.

Richard Ratcliffe made the comments after a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Thursday. 

Ratcliffe said there had been “no breakthrough” in discussions between the two nations to secure her release, and his wife was being used as a “chess piece” by Iran. 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for “plotting to topple the Iranian government.” She and her family maintain that she was in the country to visit relatives.Speaking outside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, Ratcliffe told reporters that the meeting had been warm in nature, but hinted that the government was not doing enough.

“The prime minister was there, the foreign secretary was there, (we) talked quite openly about having tried a number of different things to get Nazanin home,” he said. 

“We pressed him (Johnson) to be brave. I want him to push forward on improving relations. You need to be imposing a cost on Iran for holding innocent people as leverage, you’ve got to be brave there as well. The government doesn’t always say it, but in my view, Nazanin is being held hostage.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Arab News.

The Downing Street meeting comes ahead of an impending court case over a long-term trade dispute between the UK and Iran, with London accused of owing Tehran debts over an arms deal from the 1970s.

Labour Party MP Tulip Siddiq, who represents the parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family live, called on the government to settle the debt in order to help facilitate her release.

But MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, told the BBC that the issue was “extraordinarily difficult.” 

He suggested that setting a precedent of capitulating on legal disputes in return for the release of UK nationals could entice foreign governments and groups to threaten other UK citizens abroad. “The risk that would pose to British citizens traveling abroad would be very considerable,” he said.

Johnson was blamed by many in 2017, when he was foreign secretary, for having worsened Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation in Iran when, in a statement to the House of Commons, he claimed that he had been briefed that she was in Tehran training journalists. 

Despite claims from other politicians, her family and her employer, the Thompson Reuters Foundation, that he had been misinformed, the statement was subsequently used as evidence against her in court.