Archive from June, 2016
Jun 27, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Taiwan ambassador praises trade show but asks government to relax worker immigration rules

Taiwan ambassador praises trade show but asks government to relax worker immigration rules
22nd June 2016 – Engineering News

Taiwan’s ambassador backs SAITEX 2016 saying its boosts imports and exports between his country and South Africa.
Trade between Taiwan and South Africa is ‘good, but could better,’ according to the Taiwanese Ambassador, speaking during a visit to a trade show in Johannesburg today. The Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency John C Chen, praised SAITEX 2016, which brings together thousands of Africa retailers and entrepreneurs with manufacturers from across the world. “We have a good business relationship with South Africa and we see this country as our gateway to the rest of Africa,” said HE Chen.
He visited the 18 exhibitors at the Taiwan Pavilion at the South African International Trade Exhibition today which included bathroom accessories, plumbing, houseware, water purifying equipment, kitchenware, hosiery and computer equipment.Advertisement The ambassador said: “So far the exhibitors tell me they have had a very good show, SAITEX is very important for us and is a way to make business links with not only South Africa, which is our biggest trade partner on the continent but also other countries who visit the show.”
He revealed that the trade between the two countries was worth $140 million each year and South Africa exports more to his country than it imports.”
He admitted there has been a slight decline during the past 18 months, which he blamed on the global crisis but revealed South Africa is his country’s number one trade partner in Africa. “We have an excellent relationship but as I said, trade is good but can always get better, and exhibitors this year to SAITEX did face some difficulties obtaining visas and I think the government here might like to look at that and make it more straightforward.”

Jun 27, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Cape Town court judgment confirms closure of Refugee Reception Office

Cape Town court judgment confirms closure of Refugee Reception Office
Times Live – 24 June, 2016
The Cape Town High Court on Friday dismissed a challenge by the Scalabrini Centre and others‚ represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC)‚ regarding the lawfulness of the Department of Home Affair’s decision to close the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO).
The LRC described the judgment as disappointing for it and its clients.
The LRC represented the Scalabrini Centre‚ the Somali Association for South Africa and asylum seekers in asking the court to review and set aside the decision taken by the Director General of the Department of Home Affairs on the 31 January 2014 to close the CTRRO‚ arguing that it is unlawful and unconstitutional.
The judgment handed down on Friday dismissed the application. The result is that new asylum seekers can only apply for asylum at Refugee Reception Offices in Musina‚ Pretoria or Durban.
Furthermore‚ any person with an asylum seeker permit first issued at those offices‚ will not be able to renew their permit in Cape Town‚ the LRC said.

Jun 22, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

SA slams the door on expats on Refugee Day

SA slams the door on expats on Refugee Day
Times Live- | 21 June, 2016
In a move that has shocked civil society groups, the Department of Home Affairs marked yesterday’s World Refugee Day by closing a much-needed refugee reception office.
The closure of the Tshwane Interim Refugee Reception Office coincided with the holding of hundreds of events worldwide drawing attention to the plight of refugees and asylum-seekers
Local asylum-seekers, some of whom are battling to have their refugee application processed, also held a march to parliament in Cape Town in yesterday’s icy weather.
Ironically, the march was organised to commend the government for its largely progressive refugee policy.
But there are fears that attitudes are changing and proposed new legislation has been labelled “refugee unfriendly” .
The department has recently begun reducing the number of “refugee reception centres” in cities in preparation for processing refugee applications at the border – in line with the proposed new policy. The intention is to cut down on the number of economic migrants, whom the department claims are exploiting refugee status.
David Cote, head of the strategic litigation unit for Lawyers for Human Rights, told The Times: “We were disappointed that we were effectively given only one day’s notice of the closure [of the Pretoria office], particularly as it occurred on World Refugee Day.
“This day is intended to highlight the importance that asylum seekers and refugees can have in our society.”
He said his organisation had been invited to meet representatives of the department on Friday to discuss the closure of the Pretoria office.
The department said the Tshwane office would be merged with the one in Marabastad, where several key refugee services were currently suspended.
Speaking at yesterday’s march, several refugees expressed their frustration with South Africa’s new policy direction.
Mike Alomba, a spokesman for Congolese refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa, urged the government to remember that neighbouring countries had offered sanctuary to political exiles during the apartheid era.
“African people gave them a roof. Africa needs to be reunited. South Africa must remember its past – Africa is home to all Africans,” Alomba said.
The UN has said that the number of refugees worldwide hit a record 65.3million at the end of last year.

Jun 22, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Why South Africa should care about Brexit

Why South Africa should care about Brexit
Times Live | 20 June, 2016 08:09
The UK is eating itself alive. The consequences for the world will be profound.
On Thursday the UK will vote in a referendum to decide whether to stay in the EU or leave the organisation of 28 member nations.
From the southern tip of Africa it might seem like a far-away debate but this move will have repercussions that will hit us sooner rather than later.
A “leave” vote on Thursday will no doubt be devastating for the UK. Already the pound sterling has taken a beating against major currencies. Business is jittery. Business leaders and economists are predicting massive job losses and an economy that will stall.
There is, however, another, greater danger. Brexit – as the break-up is called – will lead to a Nazi-type radical nationalism, fascism and racism in Europe.
Already, in France, the right-wing National Front leader Marine le Pen continues to gain ground and is a serious contender for the presidency in the 2017 election.
In Germany the racist, right-wing Alternative for Germany has seen massive growth in support recently by beating an anti-immigration drum.
In the UK the pressure for exiting the EU emanates from the right-wing, anti-immigration UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, a man who has claimed that there is a higher risk of sex attacks by migrants if the country stays in the organisation.
On Friday, Le Pen gave a fiery speech at a beer-swilling rally of European far-right “patriots” in Austria. She claimed that, by exiting the EU, the UK “is regaining its liberty, its freedom to trade with whom it pleases”.
Her message was eerily akin to the words of the man accused of murdering British Labour MP Jo Cox on Thursday.
In court on Saturday, accused Thomas Mair gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.
What does all this mean? Europe is in danger of falling apart into tiny little fascist, nationalistic enclaves of the type that existed before World War 1 and 2.
The UK itself might very well disintegrate: Scotland might want another referendum on leaving the UK, and then England and Wales will be left all alone while the Scottish tribe drifts away.
Politically, Britain’s governing Conservative Party is so divided over the issue that it makes our ANC’s fissures look as sedate as the queen’s summer garden party.
Already there is grave talk that whatever the result of this week’s referendum Prime Minister David Cameron will face a revolt from within his own party.
Newspapers report darkly that Boris Johnson, the pro-Brexit former mayor of London, is preparing to “move” against Cameron after Thursday.
Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover wrote: “I foresee months, if not years, of internecine warfare among Conservatives.”
How did the UK get to this point? How did it get to a situation in which business leaders are warning that the UK faces economic meltdown if it decides to leave the EU while the “Brexiteers” warn that staying in means being controlled from Brussels while foreigners “flood” (that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) the country?
Sadly, Cameron is to blame. After negotiations with the EU in 2013, and right-wing pressure particularly from Ukip and its leader Farage’s strident anti-immigrant rantings, Cameron promised a referendum on whether to stay in or leave the EU.
Cameron thought he could get away with a “sensible” result. The gambit has blown up in his face and now the “Brexiteers” are on the rise.
Last week an Evening Standard newspaper poll showed that the campaign to leave Europe was gaining ground with 53% of Britons now wanting to leave and 47% wanting to stay.
What now? The world is worried about the prospect of the UK turning its back on the EU and essentially the world. Janet Yellen, US Federal Reserve chairman, revealed last week that US interest rates were being held steady, partly because of EU jitters.
“It is a decision that could have consequences for economic and financial conditions in global financial markets,” Yellen said.
For me, former British prime minister Gordon Brown made the most salient point about what Brexit would mean.
In the New Statesman magazine, he wrote: “Each of the EU’s 28 member states has abolished capital punishment, tightened gun control laws and championed human rights . We are united by a belief that foreign policy is not just an exercise in protecting interests but also about advancing ideals . But now this set of beliefs is under fire.”
Thursday’s Brexit vote might change the global political architecture in fundamental ways. An EU without the UK might tip the world back to the fascistic, mean, dangerous political waters of the 1930s.
We will feel the effects – through trade, diplomacy and other ways – here in South Africa.

Jun 22, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

SA’s ‘alarming’ asylum seeker backlog

SA’s ‘alarming’ asylum seeker backlog
Cape Times / 20 Jun ’16
MORE than a million asylum seekers in South Africa, the highest number in the world, were waiting for their applications to be processed at the end of last year.
Human rights groups say that at the current rate the country is taking to work through the list of refugee appeals, it would take more than 20 years to wipe out this backlog.
To mark World Refugee Day, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, along with refugees, local schools and the Civil Society of Congo, marched to Parliament to hand over a memorandum of appreciation for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.
As the world marked Refugee Day yesterday, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its 2015 report, which stated that South Africa had 1 096 100 pending asylum claims.
Germany was next with 420 600 applications, followed by the US with 286 200.
The report, titled Global Trends 2015, pointed out that the number of asylum seekers had been estimated at 1 057 600 in 2014.
It attributed the increase to a change in methodology, due to a historical under-reporting of the population.
Other countries with more than 100 000 pending asylum claims included Turkey with 212 400 and Sweden with 157 000.
Although the number of new applications last year was 62 200, the statistical adjustment meant that South Africa housed more asylum seekers than any other country last year, the report found.
“An adjustment to 2014 end-of-year figures, in particular, for the number of asylum applications pending on appeal and review has resulted in a substantially higher figure for numbers of asylum seekers reported in South Africa for 2015,” the report said.
“It should be noted that the current legal framework in South Africa does not enable the withdrawal, whether explicit or implicit, of asylum applications lodged.”
About 3.2 million people globally were waiting for decisions on their asylum claims by the end of last year.
Despite improved statistical reporting on pending asylum applications, the correct number of undecided asylum cases was unknown as some countries did not report the information.
Southern African Litigation Centre director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh said while there had not been a sudden spike in the numbers of asylum seekers, the statistics appeared alarming due to a historical under-reporting of the numbers.
UNHCR regional officer Tina Ghelli said the refugee agency was working with the South African government on a three-year plan to resolve the backlog.
“What is a concern and needs to be addressed is the speed at which the refugee appeals process operates.
“At the current rate, the backlog will require 20 or more years to be resolved. This is untenable and deeply impacts on refugees’ ability to integrate and to access much-needed services, and move forward with their lives,” Ramjathan-Keogh said.
Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town’s advocacy officer, Corey Johnson, said there were cases of asylum seekers having waited 10 years for a final decision.
“There has been a focus on trying to reduce the number of applications, and often individuals who have legitimate refugee claims are routinely rejected in their refugee status determination interviews, and then must lodge appeals.
“The Refugee Appeal Board has a large backlog and that brings more delays,” he said.
Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa director Roshana Dadoo said: “The problem is that people wait for years as asylum seekers before receiving a refugee status determination interview at which their claim is either accepted – and full refugee status is granted – or rejected.
“Also, the status determination process is very flawed.”
Democratic Republic of Congo national Parice Maseka said: “I left my country because of security reasons. It is is very difficult to just get asylum papers; we suffer a lot.
“I have to go to Pretoria every month to renew my papers. They keep on extending them by one month.”
Home Affairs Department spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete had not responded to enquiries before deadline.

Jun 20, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

The African Union is introducing a single passport to make travel on the continent easier for Africans

The African Union is introducing a single passport to make travel on the continent easier for Africans
June 18, 2016 Quartz Africa
When heads of state from across Africa arrive in Kigali, Rwanda next month for the African Union (AU) Summit, they will be among the first Africans issued the new electronic African Union passport. The passport is meant to make travel on the continent much easier for Africans.
“The scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020,” the AU said in a statement announcing the launch.
Travel in Africa is difficult for most Africans. They are required to have visas for over half of the countries on the continent. Only 13 African countries (pdf) allow other Africans to enter without a visa or give visas on arrival. In contrast, Americans can travel to 20 African countries without visas or with visas on arrival.
African travelers say they feel the same suspicion at immigration counters within the continent as they do outside of it. Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian businessman and Africa’s wealthiest man, was himself once turned away by South African immigration officials as he struggled to locate his passport. Meanwhile his American staff sailed through border control.

Intra-African trade also costs more than any other region—as much as 50% higher than East Asia, for example. A truck serving supermarkets in southern Africa needs to carry as many as 1,600 documents, including permits and licenses, in order to cross borders, according to Anabel Gonzalez, senior director of a World Bank group on trade and global competitiveness.
The goal of the African Union passport, which Dangote said he is applying for, is to help turn Africa into a “continent with seamless borders” modeled after the European Union’s Schengen Area. Giving the passports to state leaders is a “symbolic and significant” step, according to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the African Union Commission. The goal of the African Union passport is to help turn Africa into a “continent with seamless borders.”
Officials have been pushing for increased freedom of movement ever since the Organization of African Unity, a precursor to the AU, was established in the 1960s. The idea has gained traction over the last few years, however, due to the continent’s improving economic fortunes and population growth. The AU wants to abolish visa requirements for all African citizens visiting African countries by 2018, and establish a free trade area across the continent by 2017.
Skeptics point out that creating a truly borderless Africa will likely be quite challenging. The continent hosts many refugees from conflict areas, not to mention militant groups like al-Shabaab or Boko Haram. Then there are public health crises like the Ebola outbreak, and questions posed by the nationality of those who have been deemed stateless.
The Seychelles, Rwanda, Mauritius, and most recently Ghana have all loosened travel restrictions on their fellow Africans, allowing visas on arrivals or entry without the permit. But the process remains slow. Currently, only AU heads of state and government, ministers of foreign affairs, and other AU officials can apply for the passport, which will be recognized in all 54 countries belonging to the organization.
“Countries have said that they are going back to look at the practicality of doing their immigration regulation,” says African Union Commission chair Dlamini-Zuma. “But there is a decision and it is up to all of us to hold our countries to that decision so that indeed Africans can move freely amongst other African countries.”

Jun 20, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Court battle over Cape Town asylum seekers

Court battle over Cape Town asylum seekers
19 June 2016 – Groundup
Scalabrini Centre wants Home Affairs Cape Town office to accept new applications by asylum seekers
On Thursday, the Department of Home Affairs was back in the Western Cape High Court over the closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (RRO).
The matter has been disputed in the courts since June 2012, when Home Affairs first closed the office for new asylum applicants.
Cape Town is not the only city where refugee reception offices were closed. Until 2011, there were six centres in the country: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Musina. Since then, the offices in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town have been closed. Asylum seekers who came to Cape Town after June 2012 have had to go to Durban, Musina or Pretoria to register, between 1,500 and 1,900km from Cape Town.
“I can’t think of any government services for South Africans that would require someone living in Cape Town to go to Pretoria,” says Steven Budlender, counsel for the applicants, which included Scalabrini Centre, the Somali Association of South Africa and several asylum seekers.
“It is unthinkable that someone applying for social grants here or an 18-year-old from Khayelitsha who wanted to register to vote would be told to go to Pretoria. What is it about refugee reception services that makes this acceptable?”
Corey Johnson, an advocacy officer at Scalabrini, says he thinks Home Affairs is trying to deter asylum seekers. “The closures are due to DHA’s focus on reducing the number of asylum applications instead of directing resources into how to improve their ability to receive them,” he said. “The general perception of asylum seekers by the department is that they are not genuine and are abusing the asylum system.”
Home Affairs argues that “prior to having entered the country and applying for asylum, those seeking refugee status, will not have established themselves in any particular city and, as such, they have no right or entitlement to apply for asylum in any particular city.”
In March 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeals ordered Home Affairs to reopen the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Centre. Home Affairs has until 1 July to comply.
In the Port Elizabeth judgment, the court noted: “The asylum application process is invariably a protracted one. Timely access to an RRO is thus critical not just for asylum seekers to legalise their stay in this country, but also for the effective protection of their rights.”
Applications for asylum require more than one visit. Once their application has been lodged, asylum seekers must follow through at the same office, returning for a refugee-status determination interview, renewal of their asylum-seeker permit, the decision on their status and for any appeals processes.
Johnson says the process can take a couple of years. “We’ve seen some cases of people waiting 10 to 15 years.”
The Cape Town office is still functioning but only with existing applications from before June 2012. Last week, however, the High Court ordered it to renew the permits of asylum applicants living in the Western Cape even if they had originally applied at another office.
Closure “irrational and unlawful”
In closing the office, the Director General provided reasons for the closure. These included: the difficulty of maintaining a refugee reception office in a metro area because of recurring litigation over nuisance and zoning violations; the main Customs House office was not suitable and another suitable location could not be found; the majority of the applications lodged at the Cape Town office were eventually rejected; for many of the applicants, Cape Town was not their point of entry.
But Counsel for the applicants argued that in the first four months of 2012, before the office was closed, it was the second busiest in the country.
The respondents, however, argued that the number of applicants has reduced over the years from 222,300 in 2009 to 70,000 in 2013.
Decision unconstitutional
The closure of the office forced asylum seekers to take off three to four days from work and fund expensive travel that also put them at risk of detention and deportation every time they had to visit an office.
The applicants included the example of Abdikadir Jele, a Somali asylum seeker who visited the Cape Town RRO four times between the end of 2011 and June 2012 to register, but was told to come back another day. He returned after June 2012 and was told he could no longer apply at that office.
Jele has not registered because he does not have the means to travel to Durban, Pretoria or Musina, let alone return there for further proceedings. He said he barely makes enough to survive and depends on the community in Cape Town.