Foreigners streaming into Western Cape

2012-02-08 15:30

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Parliament - Foreigners are streaming into the Western Cape in their thousands, becoming both the victims and perpetrators of crime, MPs heard on Wednesday.

"An estimated 8 000 a month are flowing into the province," provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer told Parliament's police portfolio committee.

The committee was being briefed by each of the nine provincial police commissioners on crime statistics, following the release of these in September.

"If you see the influence of foreign nationals in the Western Cape, you will be shocked," Lamoer told MPs.

He invited them to take a trip with him to the Bellville railway station.

"You will see what it looks like there with foreign nationals - and it's only Somalians we have in that [Bellville] area."

His power-point presentation to the committee - a copy of which was not immediately available - also referred to Nigerians, Congolese, and Namibians in the province.

Lamoer said home affairs in the Western Cape was processing hundreds of foreigners each week.

"Home affairs gave an indication that at their processing centre, where they [foreigners] apply for asylum, we're talking about 500 to 800 that come per day. The processing is about 800 per week."

Crime

Lamoer referred to a gang of Namibians robbing houses along so-called green belts in Cape Town's southern suburbs.

"There was a group of foreign nationals, Ovambos from Namibia, that we arrested. We arrested them but they were released on bail."

Foreigners were also on the receiving end when it came to crime.

Police had investigated the rise in business robberies in the province, which started after the 2010 World Cup, and had discovered that only a third of the victims were South African.

Many foreigners had established spaza shops or were operating businesses from containers or from their homes. Many did not bank their takings and slept on the premises.

"One of the major problems... is the spaza shops, the container shops, and the house shops. Eighty percent of business robberies involve these establishments.

"But only 33% of the victims of these robberies are South Africans; the rest are all foreign nationals. We have a serious problem."

Lamoer also questioned the legality of many of these businesses. He criticised Cape Town authorities for not properly applying city by-laws.

"What we've discovered is that foreign nationals are not supposed to trade unless they have a working permit and a trade permit."

Illegal fire arms

Lamoer said this was a "major challenge" and one that he was taking up with the department of home affairs.

He also reported that foreigners were arming themselves.

"We arrested - from April 1 to December 31 last year - a total of 72 foreign nationals with 70 illegal firearms. They are arming themselves because they need to protect themselves."

On illegal drugs, Lamoer said police in the province had, since April 1 2010, confiscated drugs with a street value of over R12bn.

"Every single day we confiscate drugs," he said.

The police, together with their traffic counterparts, were working to block the entrance of drugs into the province.

"We started in January last year, specifically in the Beaufort West area. In the first week, we stopped buses, as well as taxis and courier vans... and in the first week confiscated R50m worth of drugs from these buses."

The police had contacted the bus companies and instituted a scheme to tag loaded luggage.

"Some of them listened, but last week, on Friday, we got another bus with khat on board. There was no tag. We arrested the bus drivers and we confiscated the bus...."

The owners of the bus where now giving the police "very good co-operation".

A minibus that was stopped while being transported on an auto-carrier in the southern Cape was found to be "full of dagga".

Major problem

Lamoer said illegal liquor was another big problem.

"We confiscate liquor every week. Over the past year, more than a million litres was confiscated."

On gang violence in the Western Cape, Lamoer said this was linked to drugs.

"As soon as we put on the pressure and confiscate drugs, the gang violence goes up."

Lamoer said tik was not the most-used drug.

"Heroin is the one, and it's more addictive than any other drug... It is a major, major problem," he said.

The provincial police commissioners from the Free State and North West provinces, who preceded Lamoer at the briefing, both also reported an increase in crime related to foreigners.

- SAPA

Read more on:    cape town  |  refugees  |  narcotics
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