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Cops 'can't act against squatters'

By Khulekani Mazibuko | Jun 29, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

ETHEKWINI Metro police yesterday said they would not act against the hundreds of illegal immigrants living under a railway bridge on Williams Road in Durban because it is private land.

The immigrants are accused of littering and vandalising property as they try to keep warm in the chilly weather. In some instances road signs and other wooden materials are stripped to make fires.

The concrete fencing around the bridge has been broken and blackened by fires.

The immigrants, mostly adult males, said they came to the city in search of jobs and are from all over the continent, including Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Metro police spokesperson Joyce Khuzwayo said it was difficult for the police to arrest the foreigners since they were on private land.

"We had positive results removing immigrants from Albert Park and other old buildings because the owners gave us the authority," Khuzwayo said.

"Unless Transnet comes to us with an eviction notice or court order we cannot involve ourselves."

Khuzwayo said they were working with the Home Affairs Department to register the immigrants, but blamed new arrivals for the growing number of unregistered migrants.

Tanzanian Pesa Mpambizi said he arrived in the country by ship since he did not have a permit, and hoped to find a job.

"We live under poor conditions. We use plastic sheets as blankets and others are sick because of the cold weather. We are hiding under the bridge because we fear being arrested."

He said they spend their days looking for jobs, while others beg at traffic lights.

Elam Ongeyi of the Immigrants Support Group expressed disappointment in what he called "poor service" from Home Affairs.

"These people wake up early in the morning to wait in long queues and leave without getting help."

Transnet provincial spokesperson Selby Dlamini said he would respond in writing.


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