THE scenes outside Customs House over the last few days are a source of shame to our city and our country.
Refugees are being pushed and shoved by police and security guards daily as they try to get inside the Department of Home Affairs building to renew expired documents. Some have queued for days, sleeping outside through the winter nights; some, like Paul Kmie of Bangladesh, for weeks.
In some cases police have used pepper-spray and apparently also tear gas to control the crowds.
South Africa still gets the highest annual number of asylum applications of any country in the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
By the end of 2011, some 220 000 asylum-seekers, mainly from Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Somalia and Zimbabwe were registered in South Africa and there were 106 904 applications in 2011.