Asylum seekers run riot in Cape
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Cape Town - Hundreds of asylum seekers turned away from a Home Affairs refugee office in the Cape Town CBD on Thursday ran riot, hurling stones and damaging the building.
Police responded with rubber bullets and teargas, injuring a number of protesters.
Tresor Mbangu from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was hit on the head by a rubber bullet fired by police.
He was helped by fellow citizens who took him to the police to show the damage they had caused. As they were approaching, the police fired rubber bullets again at them.
Tensions erupted after refugees were told to renew their permits in Durban or Pretoria.
Stones littered Lower Heerengracht while a number of windows were shattered.
Ndombi Lubazedio Miriam, who arrived at the offices with her one-year-old daughter Aline Nanoka Amba, had an appointment to get proof of her marriage certificate her husband needed for a work permit.
“The security told me to wait at the gate. When people in the queue started making trouble he pushed me, I fell with my baby I was carrying on my back. He also pepper-sprayed us,” she said.
Fru Joy Chi, 30, from Cameroon, said it was unfair to be turned away after he was told to be at the office on Thursday.
“No one is explaining anything to us. Some are saying we must come back on Monday, but then we will have to pay a fine of R2 500 for arriving after the expiry date.”
Soleil Nantabara, 20, from DRC, was at Home Affairs to renew her temporary permit which expired on Thursday.
“I can understand why people are upset. They came here to have their permits renewed but were told to go to the refugee offices in Pretoria. No one has the money to travel that far.”
She added it was a problem for everyone because they could be arrested.
“They refuse to give us our papers. We came here to renew our papers, but today we were told we couldn’t. We have to renew it where we received our first permit, Durban or Pretoria. I wanted to go home for the holidays but now I can’t.”
She added it also left them feeling vulnerable to harassment by police.
Niclette Sheta, from DRC, whose permit also expired on Thursday, said they couldn’t work without their permits.
Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said about 1 000 people “started fighting among each other” early on Thursday morning.