News / Africa

South Africa, Long a Haven for African Immigrants, Tightens Rules

FILE - Zimbabweans fill out application forms outside Immigration offices in Johannesburg.
FILE - Zimbabweans fill out application forms outside Immigration offices in Johannesburg.
Anita Powell
South Africa says it is tightening its immigration regulations to strengthen security and prevent abuse, but critics say the changes will make life more difficult for foreigners in Africa’s economic powerhouse.

For nearly two decades, South Africa has been a haven for the continent’s poor, and for immigrants seeking a better life in Africa’s most advanced nation. 
 
But a set of immigration restrictions introduced in recent days has closed those welcoming arms.  In the early days of President Jacob Zuma’s second term, his government is looking to crack down on immigration abuses.
 
Among the changes are a new “critical skills visa” for those with job skills in high demand. 
 
But the changes that have people worried are those that involve tighter enforcement of existing rules.  Those who overstay their visa could now be deemed “undesirable” and barred from the country.
 
That is a real risk even for law-abiding immigrants, because the Home Affairs office is not only notoriously slow and inefficient, but also has been slapped with numerous allegations of corruption.
 
New Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba is the former minister of Public Enterprises, a job that saw him try, unsuccessfully, to overhaul the national airline. He says the changes are necessary, and no harsher than in other countries. 
 
“We remain resolute that the new immigration regulations are in line with our objective of managing immigration efficiently and effectively in order to facilitate socio-economic development as well as to protect the integrity of our borders and sovereignty of our country," he said. "By then, we aim to achieve the delicate balance between facilitating visitors to our country whilst ensuring the safety of our country."

South Africa’s census says about 100,000 temporary residence visas were processed during the last census year, 2011.
 
About a quarter of those permits were issued to citizens of two nations: Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
 
Hot-button issue

That makes immigration a hot-button issue among some South Africans, who accuse immigrants of reducing their economic opportunities in a nation where more than a quarter of the population is unemployed.
 
In recent years, that anger has spilled over into xenophobic riots and violence against African immigrants.
 
An immigration lawyer in Pretoria, Julian Pokroy, says some of the changes, such as the critical skills visa, are welcome.
 
But he says others are less so. He also described the sudden introduction of the new rules as “an ambush.”
 
“The way they did it has caused an enormous amount of confusion. There are a lot of contradictions in the regulations," he said. "As I said, there are potential unconstitutionalities.  Some of it is bad in its administrative law, and some of the regulations contradict provisions in the Act.”
 
Pokroy, who serves as chairman of the immigration law committee of South Africa’s Law Society, says he expects some of the new rules to be challenged in court.  For example, he says, the laws could end up separating non-South Africans from their South African spouses and children, which could be a violation of the constitution’s right to family life.
 
“What has happened is there has been, as I have said at the outset, families that are going to be separated if this is not varied in some way or some exceptional circumstances are considered, humanitarian considerations.... It is harsh, harsh, harsh; it has not been thought out,” Pokroy said.
 
Gigaba has also acknowledged that many of the nation’s immigration issues come from within his ministry, which he has vowed to clean up.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs