Although its purpose is to combat crime‚ Operation Fiela is instead further deepening divisions between South Africans and foreigners‚ speakers at a seminar about refugee and migrant rights‚ and xenophobic violence‚ hosted by Lawyers for Human Rights at the University of the Witwatersrand‚ said on Wednesday.
The speakers called Operation Fiela a “problematic” approach.
Operation Fiela‚ which means “sweep clean”‚ was launched by the inter-ministerial committee on migration after violence against foreigners broke out in April.
According to government‚ it was meant to rid the country of “illegal weapons‚ drug dens and prostitution rings”.
Maurice Smithers of Awethu‚ a non-governmental organisation formed in response to xenophobic attacks‚ said expelling people would not change the negative attitudes that exist towards foreigners.
Alfani Yoyo from the Coordinating Body of Refugee and Migrant Communities said Operation Fiela was targeting a specific group‚ namely foreign nationals.
“It feeds the perception that migrants are to be blamed for the social ills in the country‚” Yoyo said.
He said the operation exposed migrants to criminals and also “demoralised and dehumanised” migrants.
“Operation Fiela hampers integration and cements the attitude of ‘us and them’‚” Yoyo said.