Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:37 UK

Exodus after South Africa attacks

Mozambicans wait to board a bus to take them home
At least eight of those killed are thought to be from Mozambique

Several thousand foreigners have fled South Africa after days of violent attacks by angry mobs.

Mozambique is laying on special buses, which have taken some 9,000 people home this week, an official said.

Some Zimbabweans are also going home, preferring to risk the violence there than stay in South Africa.

At least 42 people have been killed and some 15,000 have sought shelter from the mobs, who blame foreigners for high crime and unemployment.

The army is to be deployed in South Africa to contain the violence - for the first time since the end of apartheid.

Police in Johannesburg, where most of the attacks have taken place, say the situation is now much quieter than in recent days.

I have a little girl at home - I want to see her grow up

Henry, 24

But attacks have been reported in North-West province for the first time, after violence in Durban in recent days.

The police have used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

There were also attacks in the north-eastern Mpumalanga province.

"Two buses were burnt last night and one Mozambican guy was shot. He is in hospital," said police spokeswoman Sibongile Nkosi.

Chaotic scenes

"I am just scared for my life," Henry, a 24-year-old Zimbabwean, told the BBC as he prepared to board a bus taking him home.

"I have a little girl at home - I want to see her grow up," he said after seeing a man shot dead at the weekend.

Foreign population: 3-5m
Majority from Zimbabwe, also Mozambique, Nigeria
Total population: 49m
Unemployment rate: 30%

"I think Zimbabwe is safe."

Some three million Zimbabweans are believed to be in South Africa, fleeing poverty and violence at home.

The BBC's Karen Allen saw chaotic scenes and scuffles at a Johannesburg police station, as Mozambicans tried to scramble on board buses to take them home.

She says that those who could not get places spent the night in waste ground outside the police station, during the southern hemisphere winter.

Many had been beaten and had their property stolen.

Leonardo Boby, deputy national director of migration, said that about 3,000 people had returned to Mozambique each day this week so far.

"We are having hectic moments with the return of these people," he said.

At least eight of those killed are thought to be from Mozambique.

Tavern attacked

The violence also spread to the port city of Durban on Tuesday, where some 700 African migrants sought refuge in a church.

Day of violence in Johannesburg suburb

"A mob of plus/minus 200 were gathering on the streets carrying bottles and knobkerries [wooden clubs] busy attacking people on the streets," provincial police spokeswoman Superintendent Phindile Radebe told AFP news agency.

"They attacked one of the taverns there believed to be owned by Nigerians," she said.

A defence ministry spokesman said soldiers would only be deployed onto the streets when requested by the police.

The attacks on foreigners began 11 May in the township of Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, before spreading to the city centre and across the Gauteng region.

I am ashamed that we South Africans have not learnt the lessons of our past better
Lorna, Johannesburg

Mobs have been roaming townships looking for foreigners, many of whom have sought refuge in police stations, churches and community halls.

Kgalema Motlanthe, secretary general of the ruling ANC, on Wednesday said many of the immigrants were able to get jobs in South Africa because they were better qualified than the locals, whose education was disrupted by apartheid.

He said there was an "envy from South African sisters and brothers, who did not have the opportunity to acquire this education or skills.

"We need to address the young generation without skills in order to enable them to make a living."

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