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 Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
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 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.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs