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Immigrants detained: ‘Don’t waste your energy on law-abiding people’
29 Oct 2008
Bongani Hans

A GROUP of South African women and men vented their anger at police at Howick police station following the arrest of more than 30 immigrants, apparently after their immigration permits had expired.

The immigrants were arrested on Friday evening in Howick West, where they were renting rooms as individuals or in groups.

The women, who have children with the immigrants, are concerned that if they are deported back to Malawi, where most of them are from, they will be left with no one to support the children.

Some South African men, friends and colleagues of the detainees, shouted at the police officers.

‘Howick is full of crime committed by South Africans, but you are wasting your energy and government resources arresting people who do honest jobs to support their children,” shouted one man while waiting for the detainees to appear from holding cells.

Most of the immigrants worked for a shoe factory in Howick, while others were employed by local residents and small businesses.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed that 34 people were arrested on Friday because they either had expired immigration documents or were found to have none.
He said they were taken in during a joint operation between the SAPS and the Department of Home Affairs.

Khetho Ntuli has a one-year-old baby girl with Stiya Phiri, who is also waiting for deportation. She is concerned that her daughter will grow up without a father.

“I’m also concerned because he (Phiri) has kidney problems, and since he was arrested his sickness has become serious, because they are sleeping on the floor. He has no access to a doctor,” said Ntuli.

Ntuli, who lives with Phiri, said she was in her parent’s house in Siyabazali informal settlement in Howick when the arrest happened. When she arrived at Phiri’s room on Saturday morning, she found the door open and most of their belongings missing.

She alleged that Phiri had lost a wallet that contained R1 500 and added, “I think police left the door open and criminals took advantage”.

Florence Masilo (22), who is an immigrant from Lesotho, is four months pregnant with the child of Malawian immigrant, Aufi John. She is also worried that her child will be born without the father.

Also at the police station was a businessman who had come to bring food to his detained employee, James Nudi.

He alleged that the immigrants have been deprived of food and blankets. He asked not to be named as he fears being fined for employing an illegal immigrant.

Budhram said the detainees will be kept in the holding cells until Home Affairs officials are ready to deport them, which might happen today.

bhans@witness.co.za



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