Foreigners flee after violence erupts in Grahamstown

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More than 200 foreigners are living in desperate conditions and terror in an old hotel 10km outside Grahamstown. They had to flee their homes after a new wave of xenophobic violence.

Some of the foreigners fled in such haste last Wednesday that they had no time to put on shoes. They were still wandering around the Stone Crescent Hotel barefoot yesterday.

A Grahamstown anti-xenophobic group has sprung up to respond to the sudden outbreak of violence that took police by surprise.

Police said several hundreds of homes and shops were destroyed.

Grahamstown anti-xenophobic group spokesman Matthew Mpahlwa said 456 foreigners were displaced but 188 had been taken in by friends and family. There were about 20 children sheltering at the hotel.

Another member of the group, Anjum Naveed, a medical doctor, said threats that mobs would move on the hotel had forced some of the refugees to move on.

Mpahlwa said there was a shortage of blankets for the groupfrom Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mali, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He said food was also running out.

Rhodes journalism student Lucy Grinker, 19, who visited the refugees on Sunday, said people were still wearing the clothes they had on five days before.

She said: "The hotel owner has been feeding people from his own pocket. People need clothes, food, toiletries and soap.

"They looked morose. They do not know what their future holds. They were just sitting around looking traumatised."

Violence apparently broke out after locals accused a foreign businessman of targeting people for muthi purposes.

Mpahlwa said it was still not clear when the foreigners would return and be reintegrated into the communities they fled because they feared for their lives.
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