MAYNARD, MA, May 26, 2008 - Since mid-May 2008 there have been a series of violent attacks against foreign nationals, particularly refugees or immigrants from other African nations. The majority of these xenophobic attacks have been in Gauteng Province in township areas (Alexandra, Thembisa, Hillbrow, Cleveland, Jeppe, Honeydew, Primrose and Central Johannesburg). Incidents have also been reported in Durban and Capetown. Dozens of people have been killed or injured, including victims of the attacks and bystanders. The attacks have so far not been directed against non-African foreign travelers or business visitors.
Earthwatch has been monitoring the violence closely since it began, communicating with our partners and project staff on the ground, as well as with ISOS. Currently, both the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the US State Department have not advised against travel to South Africa, although travelers are advised to use caution, and to avoid townships in Guateng Province and any large public disturbances. Visitors are also advised to check local media sources to watch where attacks are occurring and to avoid those locations. There is the possibility that attacks could spread to other regions with little or no warning.
As always, safety is our primary concern. We are in direct contact with our project staff in South Africa who will continue to provide updates on the situation. Currently, all Earthwatch projects are fielding as planned, although a change in rendezvous location for some projects is possible. Volunteers for whom this change applies will be contacted directly by Earthwatch staff. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and respond as appropriate to any further developments.
Earthwatch cannot guarantee anyone's safety completely. Natural and political disasters can and do happen without warning. Volunteers should read Project Briefings thoroughly and think carefully about their personal comfort level with the field conditions of the project, the volunteer tasks and their own physical and mental capabilities. We encourage volunteers to educate themselves about current conditions in South Africa by consulting the following resources:
United States State Department: South Africa
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office: South Africa
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: South Africa
South African Government Online:
If you are scheduled to field on an Earthwatch expedition and would like to speak to an advisor please call 1-800-776-0188.
Earthwatch Institute is the world's largest environmental volunteer nonprofit organization. Its mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Earthwatch was founded in Boston in 1971 and affiliate offices are based in the UK, Australia, and Japan. With approximately 120 projects fielding in more than 55 countries worldwide, Earthwatch focuses its research efforts on climate change, endangered species and resources, marine biology and ocean conservation, and threatened traditional cultures.