A criminological analysis on safety and security of African foreign nationals in Durban, South Africa.
Cinini, Samuel Fikiri.
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The South African local citizens are not xenophobic, but they are rather forced to behave as such due to poverty, unemployment and serious social inequalities that characterise their communities. If these conditions are addressed through improved service delivery, foreign nationals could be spared from the blame. The scapegoating theory shows that local citizens do not hate foreigners but rather blame them because of strains caused by unsatisfactory life conditions which lead them to violent reactions against foreign nationals mostly from African countries. This research was undertaken to explore the threatening factors and experiences faced by foreign nationals on their safety and security in the city of Durban South Africa. The study adopted a qualitative methodology consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with African foreign nationals living in the city of which 16 African countries were represented in the research. Nevertheless, the displayed acts during the xenophobic [violence] attacks are of serious concern within the field of criminology holistically. Common law offences, such as; [physical] assault (I.e. Grievous Bodily Harm - GBH), arson, rape, injuries verbal abuse, house robberies, property damage as well as discrimination are serious crimes characterised by xenophobic violent attacks on foreign nationals. This urges for the re-definition of the concept “xenophobia” from a criminological perspective. Previously considered as mere hatred sentiments or negative attitudes towards foreigners, this research provides a different way of understanding xenophobia. This criminological analysis on safety and security of African foreign nationals in the city of Durban suggests that xenophobia can best be understood as a series of crimes against foreign nationals -which are violent in nature leading to physical beating, killing and the looting of goods as well as destroying of properties owned by foreign nationals. These crimes are a serious violation of human rights affecting the human security of the people victims as they constitute a violation of both the international humanitarian laws and national laws providing protection of the human rights of every individual. The issue of safety and security of African foreign nationals is threatened by constant fear owing to experiences of violence and discrimination, social exclusion marked by anti-immigrant attitudes by some local citizens. Local authorities, community members and the government need to come together in association with foreign nationals’ representatives and re-think possibilities of social integration and cohesion. As with anyone, foreigners’ nationals living in South Africa must have unhindered access to the socio-economic and cultural facilities available in communities they live. This will make them feel part of the community. Since the South African government is a signatory of different international frameworks and treaties accepting to temporarily and permanently host people from other countries worldwide, different awareness campaign programs are needed within the communities aiming at creating an environment of understanding the importance and need of living with people from different nationalities. This itself will create a safe and happy place for both South African citizens and foreign nationals residing in the country.