Peoples Post Woodstock-Maitland Edition 07-06-2011
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E-mail: email@example.com Tuesday 7 June 2011 Tel: 021 713 9440 Fax: 021 713 9481
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Refugee processingcomes under fireTERESA FISCHER
THOUSANDS of asylum seekers areturned away from the Maitland refu-gee reception centre every month, mostoften through no fault of their own.
They are also subjected to violence and con-tempt, and corruption is rife, according to theNGO Passop (People Against Suffering Op-pression and Poverty), following a two-weekperiod of intensive monitoring.
The most common reason people wereturned away was because the office had runout of forms.
According to Passop, applicants are beingrendered undocumented through no fault oftheir own, and are as a result vulnerable toarrest, imprisonment with criminals, and de-portation.
The NGO recently released a report of mo-nitoring conducted at the centre from 28March until 8 April by a team of 11 volunteersof various nationalities, led by American re-searcher, Alaina Varvaloucas.
Two to three monitors were always at thecentre during the hours it is open, between08:00 and 16:00.
The monitoring was funded by the Ful-bright Commission.
The monitors attempted to question themajority of people leaving the centre, andnote their experiences and the reason theywere turned away, if applicable. Of a total of1 659 people interviewed, 365 were turnedaway due to the centres lack of forms, 363 be-cause they did not have a border pass or ithad expired, and 246 because there were toomany people.
According to the report, monitors also ob-served several instances of security guardsbeating people in the crowd with makeshiftwhips of cloth and rubber or long woodensticks.
A security guard allegedly hit a Somaliman over the head with a stick. He bled pro-fusely.
The incident was reported to the monitorby at least a dozen people and the monitor wit-
nessed and took photos of the injuries.On one occasion, guards attempted to dis-
perse a crowd of newcomers turned away byHome Affairs by beating them with a stick.Monitors were caught up and nearly knockedover in the rush.
There was also a stampede when the gatewas opened one morning at 04:00, which re-sulted in one Somali man breaking his leg.
With regards to corruption, the reportstates some form of corrupt practice was wit-nessed by every one of the 11 monitors overthe course of the two weeks.
The monitoring was in part due to two ma-jor amendments to the Immigration Act of2002, which are currently before parliament.
These include shortening thevalidity of theasylum transit permit or border pass from 14days to five, which means asylum seekershave only five days in which to report to arefugee reception office after they enter thecountry.
The other amendment would impose signif-icant jail time on any migrant caught undocu-mented, or any individual caught aiding un-documented migrants.
Passop says that given the potential to ad-versely affect asylum seekers, it was worthrevisiting the situation to assess Home Af-fairs capacity to deal with applicants.
It has found the centre is unable to servenewcomers within the requisite five days,and therefore, jail time for undocumented mi-grants is draconian.
Delays have perhaps the biggest implica-tions for newcomers, who, especially oncrowded days, are frequently turned awaywithout a chance to fill in their forms and gettheir temporary permits. So even those withvalid border passes may be turned away dueto numbers. Since newcomers can only comeon certain designated days, they must waitanother week to re-apply. The newcomerwould thus receive no papers, through nofault of his/her own, and be unable to workor open a bank account, and would be vulner-able to arrest and deportation.
Because of the multitude of reasons asy-lum-seekers are being turned away, it is un-
reasonable to think that the five-day permitrule can be adhered to unless serious stepsare taken tomake theprocessmore efficient.
The report states that officials and securityguards generally treat asylum-seekers withindifference and contempt.
They are not informed of when they will beserved, officials have come out the office toscream at the crowd and there are inadequate(sometimes none at all) portable toilets.
Finally many (66 during the monitoring)who have already obtained their status arestill waiting for months for their refugeepassport. Passop strongly urged the Depart-ment of Home Affairs to take a serious lookat the daily running of its refugee centres,and make changes where necessary.
It recommends that the centre must:. Hire new staff, or open on Saturdays.. Not limit newcomers to specific days of
the week.. Crack down on corruption and abuse.
. Develop a more respectful attitude to-wards asylum seekers.
. Enhance the efficiency of current staff.
. Provide number cards for the followingday to those turned away; and
. Put up better signage and inform those inthe queue about when they will be served.
The Department of Home Affairs respondsthat it notes the monitoring report and willstudy the report and its findings, followingwhich it will communicate a comprehensiveresponse. Passop was due to meet the Depart-ment of Home Affairs to discuss the reportyesterday.
SUPERPATRIOT: South Africas favourite bagpiper, Piperjames (James McGowan), ofWelgelegen, marked 100 daysto the Rugby World Cup onWednesday 1 June. Hewill visitorphanages and schools everyFriday until the start of the cup.
Photo: Lulama Zenzile
Page 2 Peoples Post WoodstockMaitland NEWS Tuesday 7 June 2011
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Empty shops an eyesoreTAURIQ HASSEN
A PRIVATELY-OWNED buildingwhich housed stores in Salt Riv-ers Main Road has been left to de-cay.
Bad smells, coupled with the preva-lence of suspicious characters andpiles of rubbish, plague the site once oc-cupied by functioning businesses, andresidents and business owners are fed-up.
The series of store spaces have beenleft unsecured, after construction work-ers employed by the owners attemptedto demolish the building.
It is understood that the owners didnot leave the building unsecured butthat they were vandalised and de-stroyed by members of the communi-ty.
One of the stores has already been se-cured, with the front entrance beingbricked up.
Surrounding residents, consumersand business owners are concernedover the image of the area being affect-ed by the disgusting state the buildingis currently facing.
Shaun Williams, a former businessowner in the area and Salt River resi-dent, recently relocated to Epping In-dustria, but owned a clothing businessin the Main Road for 15 years.
That building has been vandalisedon several occasions, and there weresupposed to be developments at the site,but all we saw were construction work-ers in and out of the building, says Wil-liams.
He says he had to force himself tomove out of the area, as many factors,including the poor state of the build-ings, left him with few options.
In the business world, your consum-er comes first, and you must put theirneeds first, as they are the ones payingto keep your business alive, so withbuildings like this in the area, its unat-tractive and chases away clients, saysWilliams.
Rachmat Abdullah, another residentin Salt River, adds that concerns areranging from thieves hiding out inthe building, to illegal dumping of con-struction rubble and domestic waste.
She adds that on many occasions,walking down that Main Road alwaysexposes new things and people takingadvantage.
Members of the public arealways seen moving in andout of the house, dumping andacting suspiciously at theunsecured premises.
I saw people on numerousoccasions throwing their dirt