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Somali envoy in S.Africa to discuss xenophobic attacks

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Sick Somali foreign nationals lay cramped in a toilet at a temporary refugee camp in Soetwater on the outskirt of Cape Town on June 18, 2008. A Somali envoy on Tuesday met officials in Pretoria in a bid to ease tensions stirred by recurring attacks on Somali refugees in South Africa.AFP/File

A Somali envoy on Tuesday met officials in Pretoria in a bid to ease tensions stirred by recurring attacks on Somali refugees in South Africa.

Somalia's deputy foreign minister, Jamal Barrow, said his visit was also a fact-finding trip following recent violence which has seen looting of foreign-owned shops and the death of a Somali shopkeeper.

He met Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, the Deputy Police Minister Makhotso Sotyu and Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim.

Barrow said after the rash of meetings: "I am convinced that a great deal has been done to address the problem."

"We found a common understanding, common action and common sentiments on how we can avert such incidents in the future," Barrow, said after wrapping up talks with Ebrahim.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane came out harshly last month to express the government's "strongest condemnation" of the "heinous" attacks.

Barrow said he was "convinced that Somalis were not specifically targeted".

"The problem was criminal activity," he said adding Somalis had become prey as they keep large amounts of cash on them and are unable to open bank accounts due to lack of passports.

He said Somalia would soon start issuing identification documents to its nationals who have been granted asylum in South Africa.

"By issuing passport we will solve this problem."

Amid widespread poverty and unemployment, frustration in South Africa's run-down neighbourhoods often boils over into anti-immigrant violence.

An explosion of deadly attacks in 2008 killed more than 60 people and displaced thousands into refugee-style camps.