NEWS

Corruption and inhumanity at Maitland Home Affairs

Demonstraitors outside Maitland Refugee Reception Centre. Photo by Veronica Washaya.
GroundUp Reporters    

Everyday about a thousand asylum seekers queue outside the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre off Voortrekker Road. They try to get the papers they need to stay in the country legally so that they can avoid prison, fines and deportation.

People sleep outside the centre or arrive in the middle of the night to get a place near the front of the queue and improve their chance of being served.

We watched security guards chase away immigrants near the back of the queue who had no prospect of being served. We also saw the guards manhandle and abuse the immigrants. Our investigation revealed that the guards are an essential part of a system that promotes corruption.

The desperation of many asylum seekers at the Refugee Centre is acute. Several people have died at the centre. In 2007, a man apparently starved to death at the previous location of the centre.

A GroundUp investigation gives a glimpse at the corruption this system causes. One of our journalists posed as an asylum seeker. She was solicited for an R800 bribe. She is Zimbabwean. If she had been Asian, she would have had to pay at least R2,000 more. Her story is told here:

GroundUp journalist, Mary-Jane Matsolo, shot the following video of the queue. A scuffle breaks out. Security guards step in and deal roughly with the participants.

Also read this interview with an asylum seeker.

In this editorial, we give our view of how the situation can be improved:

This investigation raised several ethical dilemnas for our new news organisation. The most difficult was whether or not to pay a bribe to further our investigation. After much hand-wringing, we decided to proceed. Some readers will question this decision. Please read our reasoning and justification for why we did it.

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