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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs