Rubber bullets fired at Customs House

Foreign nationals have been queuing for days, desperate for their asylum documentation.

Rubber bullets were fired at Customs House in the Cape Town CBD on Tuesday 28 May 2012. Foreign nationals became angry when officials notified them the house would be closed for the rest of the day. Picture: Carmel Loggenberg/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Police and Home Affairs officials have blocked the entry into Customs House in the Cape Town CBD and are refusing asylum seekers entry into the building.

Foreigners say police fired rubber bullets at them earlier when they refused to leave the building.

A woman who watched the scene unfold says she heard several shots being fired from a store before customers ran out of the shop.

She says she's still shocked at what she witnessed.

"I heard three gunshots coming from Customs House and I just saw people scattering. There was a break of a couple of seconds and then another three gunshots were fired. I saw smoke in the air because of the gunshots and people were running out of Customs House in different directions."

A Kenyan woman on the scene told EWN that Home Affairs officials have not authorised papers for several days and this has made them angry. She says they're desperate for their asylum documentation.

Some foreign nationals say they have been queuing for days and are desperate for an extension on their documentation. They say they'll be deported if they're found with expired papers.

The trouble started earlier when they were informed the office was going to close for the day as only one official was authorising the papers they so desperately need.

When they refused to leave the building they claimed police fired rubber bullets at them. Some foreign nationals could be seen jostling with police.

Home Affairs officials and police have refused to comment on the situation.