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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid