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A South African citizen was arrested after he tried to bribe police who had arrested 17 Pakistani nationals living in the country illegally.
Police said the unnamed South African telephoned the Jeppe police station and offered Rand 10,000 for the release of the Pakistanis, who were all found to be holding false passports.
Captain Lungelo Dlamini said members of the crime prevention unit then set a trap for the man and lured him to the police station where he repeated the offer.
He was allegedly a member of a syndicate involved in issuing falsified passports and identity documents. His name, as well as those of the 17 Pakistanis, has been withheld to avoid hampering police investigations.
The 17 men were arrested in a house in the suburb of Bertrams, favoured by Pakistani immigrants since they first began arriving as refugees about five years ago.
Most of them have applied for refugee status, but South African authorities as well as the United Nations offices here say most of them are not genuine refugees. They say the bulk of the applicants are young men seeking a better life.
Dlamini said the 17 men had admitted to having entered South Africa illegally by crossing the border with Mozambique. Earlier reports had indicated that the South African Defence Force does not have adequate manpower to patrol its lengthy borders with neighbouring states, making access for illegal immigrants quite easy.
Dlamini said that, as was the practice, the Pakistanis would be held in police custody until their court appearance, which usually results in deportation.
In a separate incident, another Pakistani national, Mohammed Butt, appeared in the magistrate's court in Johannesburg on charges relating to forged documents found in his home. Police found five identity documents, nine passports, two refugee permits, a driver's licence and four copies of passports in his possession.
Illegal Pakistani immigrants in South Africa are second on the list of the UN High Commission for Refugees in the country, topped only by Nigerians.
They have also been in the spotlight recently as South African Indians increasingly accuse them of enticing young girls into marriages of convenience in attempts to secure South African citizenship. The grooms then either fail to consummate the marriage or disappear after getting their papers.
Several local Indian priests have also been charged with assisting in the process of registering marriages to Pakistani and Indian immigrants with local unemployed black women, who are paid sums of money but who never even attend the ceremonies.
Indo-Asian News Service
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