“The local police stations need to be educated about issues of asylum-seekers jointly with the Home Affairs Department,” the chairperson of the home affairs portfolio committee, Hlomane Chauke, said yesterday.
Chauke made this call after the committee received a briefing from the Home Affairs Department, SAPS and Tshwane metro police about security challenges at the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre in Marabastad.
“It does not make sense that you have the centre and the police don’t have a clue what its role and function are. They see these people (asylum-seekers) as targets to search (and shake down).
“That must change and those police, starting with the cluster commander in front of us, must be educated around issues of immigration,” Chauke said.
The meeting was called after portfolio committee members visited the centre. Chauke said they found that the metro police manned a permanent roadblock outside the centre and then took belongings of refugees who went there to seek services.
“We are again informed that the police will do the same in full view of the public and officials of Department of Home Affairs,” Chauke added.
He said asylum-seekers were also made to pay bribes to agents as well as being pick-pocketed in view of police, who did nothing to protect them.
Chauke said the situation was so serious that asylum-seekers visiting the facility went there in hired transport and left only when they were fetched.
It also emerged that there was no co-ordination by the departments to tackle crime outside the facility.
MPs heard that the municipal CCTV camera installed outside the centre were not working.Major-General Daniel Mthombeni, commander for the Pretoria central cluster, said no cases had been reported to the police.
“If allegations are reported to police, the cluster commander or provincial commissioner will investigate. Departmental steps will be taken against those responsible,” he said.
Chauke, however, said it was unlikely that the refugees would report the very same people who stole from them.