Xenophobia threatens the lives and livelihoods of refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants and other locally defined ‘outsiders’ including domestic migrants and ethnic minorities. Recognising the risks xenophobia poses to its persons of concern (PoC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Office for Southern Africa (UNHCR ROSA) has initiated a range of activities aimed to protect PoC from its manifestations. This evaluation assesses four of UNHCR ROSA’s initiatives. It asks if they have effectively protected those PoC vulnerable to violence and other xenophobic practices. This evaluation also assesses UNHCR ROSA’s strategic approach and adherence to its mandated roles and responsibilities by analysing the processes associated with the interventions. In doing so, it offers the empirical and analytical foundation for building more sustainable and effective protection initiatives in South Africa. The evaluation also implicitly reflects on UNHCR’s global approach to xenophobia as part of its protection mandate. Its critique of the premises behind UNHCR’s South African interventions additionally provides guidance to those working elsewhere in the world.