Cape Town - Police fired tear gas into a crowd outside the Home Affairs refugee centre on the Foreshore after some people tried to jump the queue and force their way in, refugees said yesterday.
“There were about 500 people in the queue outside and suddenly there were some people who jumped the queue and went for the doors,” said Mohamed Osman, waiting to renew his asylum-seeker temporary permit. “Then there was a lot of pushing and shoving and people shouting at each other.”
He said the police were called after security guards struggled to bring the situation under control.
“Police came and they fired tear gas. My eyes are still burning,” said Osman, a Somali who arrived in the country in 2008 and lives in Oudtshoorn.
Jeanott Mwangala, who hails from Congo, said: “There were about 1 000 people waiting outside when the doors opened at 8am and by 9am people were already having arguments in the queue.
“Then later in the day things became chaotic. Some people were fighting. I saw a lady collapse. When police came they sprayed tear gas. It was just hectic.”
Osman and Mwangala said there was no communication from Home Affairs officials at the centre. After waiting in vain for hours yesterday, they had to leave and would return today, they said.
Tuesday’s incident was the second in as many weeks after refugees in the queue were hosed with cold water and Cape Argus photographer Thomas Holder was allegedly assaulted by a guard when he took pictures of a chaotic situation outside the centre on May 30.
Days later, Home Affairs provincial head Yusuf Simons announced that the head of security at Customs House had been removed and investigated for bribery.
Simons said yesterday he was on leave and referred queries to acting provincial head Martha Mxgashe, who could not be reached.