US citizens accuse immigration of intimidation

The six volunteers claim they were intimidated by immigration officials demanding to see their IDs.

American and Canadian Passports. Picture: Xarene Eskande/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - An American volunteer has accused South African immigration officials of using intimidating and heavy handed tactics while demanding identification documents.

Elaine Cleary was with five other Americans when they were stopped at the Cape Town station on Monday afternoon.

The Western Cape Home Affairs Department confirmed immigration officials were stopping and checking people's identification documents.

But Cleary says the officials were rude and threatened to lock them up for 48 hours as they didn't have their passports on them.

"I asked if we could leave, I asked whether we were being detained and he said, 'no you're not being detained, but you can't leave'. We were very confused and asked if we could call the embassy, what should we do? And he said, 'call the embassy, call Obama, we don't care.' It was very unsettling."

The department says it will investigate whether heavy handed tactics were used.

But while provincial Home Affairs head Yusuf Simons admits the officers' conduct will be investigated, he added officials have to do their job.

"If it's a conduct issue I will definitely have it investigated because that's not acceptable. Any person, whether a student or not, if you contravene our legislation we will act against you. There are no special rules for whether it's an American student or a person from Nigeria, we will check documents randomly."

The six are volunteer workers in the Masiphumelele township.