Archive from October, 2017

White Paper on Migration: border refugee processing facilities: implementation by Home Affairs

White Paper on Migration: border refugee processing facilities: implementation by Home Affairs
24 October 2017 – Home Affairs
Meeting Summary
The Department of Home Affairs briefed the Committee on implementing the White Paper on International Migration including establishing one stop border posts (OSBP) and refugee processing farcicalities closer to the border.

The DHA noted that in the 2016/17 financial year, it produced the White Paper on International Migration (WPIM) which was approved by the Cabinet on 29 March 2017 and gazetted on 28 July 2017 for public comment. The WPIM provided a new policy framework that would guide the comprehensive review of immigration and related legislation. Those elements of the WPIM that required administrative action was already being implemented. However, those elements of the WIPM that required major changes would not be implemented immediately pending the finalisation of a new legislation.

The Department gave a progress report per policy and strategic intervention. In terms of the management of admissions and departures, the policy objective was to strengthen a strategic, modern, integrated and risk-based approach in managing a secure and efficient movement of people, goods and conveyances. In terms of management of international migrants with skills and capital, the policy objective was to increase South Africa’s international competitiveness for critical skills and investment. In terms of the management of ties with South Africa expatriates, the policy objective was to proactively manage and harness emigration for development purposes. In terms of management of international migration within the African context, the policy objective was to ease cross-border movement for African citizens and to provide a legal permitting route for SADC economic migrants. In terms of management of asylum-seekers and refugees, the policy objective was to provide protection and basic services to asylum-seekers and refugees in a humane and secure manner. In terms of management of the integration process for international migrants, the policy objective was to establish a secure, strategic and integrated approach for the integration of international migrants into communities. In terms of management of enforcement, the policy objective was to reduce irregular migrants and improve compliance with immigration and related legislation and by-laws.
The Department said that while it had made serious advances in developing a new vision for a future–fit and responsive international migration, divergent and conflicting views on the management of international migration persisted. In order to facilitate a national conversation on the new policy the DHA was undertaking dialogues with thought-leaders across various sectors and disciplines.

Members welcomed the presentation and were in consensus that a lot had to be done in order to close gaps and to speak to the African Union’s Vision 2063. They felt that the problem lied in the implementation of refugee and immigration policy and highlighted persisting challenges. Questions were also asked about how the BMA Bill would be implemented and how the White Paper would be implemented if there were no adequate financial and human resources.

Meeting report
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Department and read out the apologies.
Briefing by Department of Home Affairs (DHA)
Mr Jackson McKay, Acting General Director-General, DHA, explained that the purpose of the presentation was to provide the Committee with an update on the progress made by the Department towards the implementation of the new White Paper on International Migration (WPIM).

Mr McKay said that, in the 2016/17 financial year, the DHA produced the WPIM which was approved by the Cabinet on 29 March 2017 and gazetted on 28 July 2017 for public notice. The DHA briefed the Committee on the key elements of the WPIM on 13 June 2017.
The WPIM recommends policy and strategic interventions in the following policy areas:
• Management of admissions and departures
• Management of residency and naturalisation
• Management of international migrants with skills and capital
• Management of ties with South African expatriates
• Management of international migration in the African context
• Management of asylum seekers and refugees
• Management of the integration process for international migrants
• Management of enforcement
The WPIM provides a new policy framework that will guide the comprehensive review of immigration and related legislation. Those elements of the WPIM that require only administrative action are already being implemented. However, those elements of the WPIM that require major changes will not be implemented immediately pending the finalisation of a new legislation.
Mr McKay noted that the strategic objective of the medium term targets for 2017-2020 was one fold: movement of persons in and out of the country managed according to a risk based approach. Its output included (i) immigration and refugee policy developed and legislation reviewed; (ii) BMA established and operationalised and (iii) establishment of asylum processing centres closer to the country’s borders.

Mr McKay briefed the Committee on progress report per policy and strategic intervention. In terms of the management of admissions and departures, the policy objective was to strengthen a strategic, modern, integrated and risk-based approach in managing a secure and efficient movement of people, goods and conveyances. In terms of management of international migrants with skills and capital, the policy objective was to increase South Africa’s international competitiveness for critical skills and investment. In terms of the management of ties with South Africa expatriates, the policy objective was to proactively manage and harness emigration for development purposes. In terms of management of international migration within the African context, the policy objective was to ease cross-border movement for African citizens and to provide a legal permitting route for SADC economic migrants. In terms of management of asylum-seekers and refugees, the policy objective was to provide protection and basic services to asylum-seekers and refugees in a humane and secure manner. In terms of management of the integration process for international migrants, the policy objective was to establish a secure, strategic and integrated approach for the integration of international migrants into communities. In terms of management of enforcement, the policy objective was to reduce irregular migrants and improve compliance with immigration and related legislation and by-laws. Policy interventions and progress status with respect to the said policy objectives were provided

Mr McKay noted key on-going interventions, which included establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA), a One-Stop Border Post (OSBP), and asylum processing centre closer to the borderline.
The Department of Home Affairs was responsible for overseeing the submission of the draft OSBP Policy to Cabinet for approval. Before the draft Policy is submitted to Cabinet, a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIAS) needs to be undertaken.
The following aspects of the WPIM require further development:
• Criteria and preconditions for the establishment of Ports of entry;
• Criteria and procedure for providing protection and identification services to vulnerable groups (elderly, children, disabled and pregnant women)
• Conceptualisation of a Points-Based System for skilled international migrants;
• Conceptualisation of a risk-based deportation policy and strategy;
• Conceptualisation of a ‘whole of government approach’ for managing migration;
• Review of citizenship and marriage policies regarding the grounds for granting citizenship to foreign nationals;
• Establishment of an interdepartmental institutional mechanism for managing emigration; and
• Establishment of an intergovernmental institutional mechanism for managing integration.
It is envisaged that a consolidated report on the above policy interventions will be submitted to the Minister for approval by 31 March 2018.
Mr McKay said that while the DHA had made serious advances in developing a new vision for a future–fit and responsive international migration framework, divergent and conflicting views on the management of international migration persisted. In order to facilitate a national conversation on the new policy the DHA was undertaking dialogues with thought-leaders across various sectors and disciplines.

Discussion
The Chairperson said that there was a lot still to be done. He hoped that the DHA had the human resources to implement these policy interventions. He asked the DHA to state clearly how the establishment of the BMA will happen. What would happen if the BMA Bill was signed into law? He expressed concern that the BMA would not be implemented because of its multi-faceted character and because of a lack of funding.
Ms N Dambuza (ANC) welcomed the presentation which clearly outlined the policy interventions. She, however, felt that there were a quite number of issues in immigration and refugee policy that needed amendments. She was concerned that the following year the Committee would not have time to consider the proposed amendments to existing laws. She noted that there were challenges faced by the DHA in the provision of services that led to various complaints from foreigners. She felt that immigration and refugee laws needed to be amended as soon as possible in order to address these issues. There were many complaints about the conclusion of marriages in respect of asylum-seekers. She asked why the DHA was not processing the asylum-seekers permits in a correct way and why they were not given opportunity to marry. Would the Department adhere to the African Union’s Agenda 2063? What could be done to harmonise the Southern African migration laws with the said vision so as to ensure the achievement of economic development thereby avoiding the economic growth predicament. What aspects were needed to be prioritised for the implementation of the White Paper?
Mr M Hoosen (DA) commented that there were a number of positive policy interventions in the White Paper; however it also contained scary interventions. Most problematic was the whole notion of how the DHA measured foreigners who come into South Africa. What criteria were taken into account? What was apparent was that permission of a foreigner into the country was measured on the question of whether he or she would be contributing to the economy. The immigration policy was economic oriented. He gave an example of Mauritius where that country set out having a minimum amount of money as a requirement for granting permanent residence status. He then asked whether DHA conducted any study in relation to the granting permanent residence status. Referring to the long term residence permit that would be introduced, he asked how the existing applications would be dealt with. He raised his concern about backlogs in the consideration and finalisation of the permanent resident permit (PRP) applications as well as in adjudicating asylum applications.
Mr Hoosen asked how applications for asylum would be dealt with in the centres if the DHA could not manage the existing demand of applications. Could the DHA affirm that it was capable of providing accommodation to asylum-seekers? What would happen in the case of mass influx of refugees? The Green and White Papers were silent on how these issues would be dealt with. What kind of information was the Department taking into consideration in the management of international migration? It appeared that one of the factors was whether an individual could invest in the country. What could be that investment? Why was the Department asking foreign nationals to seek permission from the Minister if they want to marry a South African? What was the motivation of requiring the consent from the Minister for a Marriage Clearance Certification? He was happy to see the cost projection for the establishment of the processing asylum centres, and asked why there was no cost projection in terms of establishing the BMA. On the dialogue and engagements, he asked if there was any engagement with civil societies and refugees and asylum-seekers.
Ms H Hlope (EFF) said that there was contradiction in the asylum law with respect to the right to work and study. How would the basic needs of asylum-seekers be catered for in the processing centres if they had no right to work and study? Would they be allowed to study and work in the processing centres? On dealing with documentation of refugees and migrants, she raised concern about the long queues she noticed at the Department offices in eThekwini and Bloemfontein. It was apparent that the DHA was challenged when it came to managing the influx of refugees and migrants and asked whether the DHA would be able to implement the new policy interventions. She noted in the White Paper, the DHA referred to something called a safe first country principle and asked how the principle would apply and how it would deal with Africans given that the borderline was colonial. Many African came in South Africa in search of green pastures. It was true that many of them were in the country to look for jobs. This was a fact that could not be disputed. The White Paper however was silent on how this problem should progressively be addressed. If one exited the parliamentary precinct, one would immediately come across foreigners running their business. Foreigners were in the country in numbers. A policy intervention was needed in order to document them and to allow them to do their business in a formal way. There was a need to attract their critical skills. She stressed that something ought to be done on the side of the DHA. Foreigners needed South Africa and South Africa needed them. She recalled that during the liberation struggle, South Africans needed them and they offered shelter to South Africans. Instead of facilitating their movement and stay, the DHA had restricted such facilitation on the basis of increasing security concerns and measures in the asylum and immigration policy. With these security concerns in place, how will the DHA be able to achieve the good things that were articulated in the White Paper? She therefore agreed with the Chairperson that a lot had to be done for policy interventions to be operational.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) welcomed the presentation on the White Paper. She noted that the permanent residence permit would be replaced by a long term residence visa and asked whether such approach would apply to holders of the PRP or those who have applied pending the finalisation of their applications. Referring to marriages between South Africans and a non-citizen, she asked why DHA was not registering children born from this marriage. She highlighted that there was a TV programme that showcased these challenges.
Ms Raphuti referred to critical skills and said she was very sceptical about doctors because many of them were bogus, who came into the country just to do gruesome atrocities. Why did the Department of Health not detect that these people who called themselves doctors were bogus? She posed the following question: how will the DHA be able to identify the rotten potatoes from good potatoes, if it said that they were high risk migrants who should not be allowed in the country? She welcomed an approach of cross-border traders visa and SMME visa for immediate neighbouring countries. She finally said that she wanted to see the BMA running. The BMA Bill was stuck at the NCOP level and asked what the problem was, hindering the Bill to progress to another level.
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) welcomed the presentation and commented that a lot of work was done under the Green and White Papers to ensure gaps were closed. However gaps were still apparent. She noted that a risk-based deportation strategy would prioritise deportation of high risk over low risk migrants and asked the DHA who it considered as a low and high risk migrant and what factors would be taken into account to classify migrants in either one of these two categories. On the establishment of immigration repatriation centres as well as processing centres, she said there was a need to engage with neighbouring countries and asked what agreements with neighbouring countries were concluded. She noted that there were international conventions that impacted on the implementation of policy interventions and asked whether those that were a hindrance could be reviewed. On the question of consulting stakeholders, she asked the DHA to clarify changes that were made when the Green Paper was turned into a White Paper.
Mr A Figlan (DA) said that South Africa had a good policy on international migration but the problem was its implementation. He asked how the BMA law would be operationalised. Would it be possible to implement it if each and every port of entry there was a shortage of human resources? The DHA was proposing policy interventions but the concern was: how it will be operationalised. What could be done to improve the implementation of the policy? Was there any strategy to improve on operations?
The Chairperson said that the question of lack of human resources should not be considered in isolation. There were other factors that affected the operation of the DHA. The successfulness of the work of the DHA was dependent on the work done by other departments. He asked how the interdepartmental relationship was. How did the DHA collaborate with other departments to ensure its immigration policy related targets were achieved? He noted that the new international migration policy sought to separate asylum-seekers from economic migrants. However, the problem was that all these people were abusing the asylum system and asked how the policy objective of not abusing asylum system would, in practice, be achieved.
On the issue of AU’s Vision 2063 and the question of free movement, Mr McKay responded that, for the past years, they negotiated the tax free and the free movement protocol. There were five meetings in this regard in which migration experts converged to discuss the issue of migration on the continent. African countries should work together to be prosperous through the establishment of a single economic system, applicable on the continent. South Africa agreed with and fully supported the Vision 2063 because it also believed that a single economy would make Africa prosper. The DHA was also arguing that allowing a free movement on the continent was a cornerstone of achieving that prosperity. However, there was a need to look at security issues that were posed by free movement of people on the continent. It should be noted that there was economic disparity among African countries. Because of the question of economic disparity, people tended to migrate to rich countries or countries with promising economic development. Such tendency would lead to people leaving their country to go to settle in another country. For that reason, there were certain pre-conditions that ought to be established in order to allow a free movement. Of concern was that some countries did not have population registers and DHA could not know where some people were coming from if allowed to enter the country freely. The other prerequisite was that everyone should have a travel document if the free movement could be allowed. The harmonisation of immigration systems with the 2063 Vision could not be achieved without identifying low and high risk migrants. Other African countries had started to implement a free movement principle but South Africa had put forward those proposals in order to implement free movement protocol. This would be discussed in the upcoming meeting. The prerequisite for implementation of the protocol in question included the consideration of the question of burden sharing on the one hand and the need to deal with guns in order to decrease the problem of transnational crimes and asylum-seeking. South Africa subscribed to the free movement protocol, provided that certain pre-conditions were met.
On the question of fast-tracking complaints of foreign nationals, Mr McKay noted that these complaints could be resolved through policy interventions. These complaints were difficult to address as they were policy related. Nothing could be done unless the policy was amended. However, there were those complaints of an administrative nature. These complaints were addressed.
On the view of making admission of foreigners in the country difficult, Mr McKay noted that he believed that the proposed international migration policy was a ground-breaking because it would allow people to come to South Africa. There were various visas introduced and there was a consideration of protecting South Africa against those foreign nationals who might put the South Africa at risk. Obviously, those who were financially stable or independent could apply not only visa but also PRP. Despite the showing of financial stability, there was a need to check where the money came from or the type of business they were engaged in because South Africa could not allow drug dealers to come to South Africa. There was an amount set in order to issue retirement visas and all these were done in order to boost South African economy.
On the marriage between a citizen and a non-citizen, he noted that there was a concern that there were a huge number of applicants of the PRP on the basis of spouse or who qualified for the PRP on the basis of spouse or marriage.
On the question of backlog in the issuance of the PRP, Mr McKay said that a huge number of applicants were applying for the PRP on basis of spouses or relatives and there was a concern about marriages of convenience. In order to deal with this problem, all marriages had to be investigated first in order to verify the validity of the marriage or to determine whether a marriage did exist merely on paper. He agreed that there was a backlog but this was because a high number of bogus applications could be found or detected.
On the establishment of processing centres, he noted that this was a contentious an issue. He agreed that Mr Hoosen’s concern was valid but it was the duty of the DHA to find mechanism to mitigate the problems raised by Mr Hoosen. He reported that many asylum-seekers indicated during interviews that they were in South Africa to look for a job. If they were in South Africa to seek a job, they were economic migrants. Many asylum-seekers and economic migrants were coming from the SADC countries and therefore a SADC permit would be created. This would address the big chunk of asylum-seekers. In processing centres, asylum-seekers would not be kept for too long. Their applications would be considered within a reasonable time. Of importance was their separation from economic migrants. Because of disaggregation, asylum application would be dealt quicker. Only those who qualify to be refugees would be allowed to move freely in the country. In the case of mass influx, there were other laws that could kick in such as disaster legislation. It was not the refugee regime that dealt with mass influx of refugees.
Mr McKay responded that there was a study on international migration and how migration could be benefited from to develop the economy. The study included those South Africans who were in the diaspora. People who were outside the country were bringing a lot of money to their countries. Accordingly, it was important to get people in the diaspora to invest in the country. A document would be established to illustrate how these investments could be managed. There was a need to know why people were compelled to leave South Africa or their home countries.
On the question of managing refugees, Mr MCKay responded that there were refugee reception centres based in Musina, Durban and Pretoria. However, applicants for asylum could pass to these offices and go to other provinces. Applicants for asylum preferred the Durban office where they could easily apply without going through biometrics processes. There was a huge congestion in Durban. As far as he knew, there was no refugee reception office in Bloemfontein. He asked Ms Hlope to give him the details regarding the office in Bloemfontein as illegal activities might be involved.
On the question of the first safe country principle, Mr McKay responded that there were discussions on the implementation of the principle; in particular, how the challenges related to its implementation could be addressed.
On the introduction of security measures, Mr McKay responded that the immigration law was created to protect citizens and to ensure that citizens were first catered for before the rest. Immigration law created certain rules and principles that apply to non-citizens. According to immigration rules and principles, the state should first see whether citizens had access to social and economic services such as education and hospitals prior to extending such services to non-citizens.
On the question of whether the law would work retrospectively with regard to holders or applicants of the PRP, Mr McKay responded that the new law would not work retrospectively. However, those refugees who were in the process of application for PRP were applying for a long term residence permit. They should also understand that naturalisation should not be based on the time stayed in South Africa.
On the question of inter-departmental cooperation or collaboration, he noted that the DHA could not deal with all issues related to migration on its own. If a person was given a visa on the basis of critical skills to practice as a doctor in South Africa, such visa could be issued provided the Department of Health had done its work. For example, the DHA could consider that people were eligible to come to South Africa; but the DHA could hear people complaining that hospital beds were full of foreigners. He asked how this issue would be of concern to the DHA if those foreign patients were legally admitted in the country. This implied that other departments had to regulate foreign nationals in their sector and to ensure coherence in the migration management policy. A question was asked in passing like: who managed the pastors and priests? A question such as this would be difficult to respond to. There might be someone who was responsible to manage pastors and priests in South Africa. And if there was no one, this implied that there was a lacuna in the law and a policy intervention was needed. The managing of foreigners required cooperation between departments.
On the question of deportation of high risk migrants, Mr McKay responded that the DHA could only engage in the deportation of (illegal) migrants if it had spoken to the foreign country concerned.
On the changes effected from the Green Paper to the White Paper, Mr McKay noted that there were comments that were provided by human rights organisations. These organisations, among other things, disputed that the centre should be referred to as detention centre; and was finally referred to as processing centres for asylum. They also considered asylum-seekers who were coming from war-torn countries.
On the difference between long terms residence permit and permanent residence permit, Mr McKay responded that the main concern was that it could not be automatic to acquire citizenship. There should be a procedure to acquire citizenship. Naturalisation could not be made on the basis of number of years stayed in the country. People should be allowed to apply for a long-term stay instead of granting them one-term permanent residents.
In closure, the Chairperson remarked that statistics should be provided for those individuals who graduated to become citizens on the basis of love (i.e. spouse) or the number of years stayed in the country. There was a lot of work that had to be done to ensure that the White Paper was implementable. It was a prerequisite to know everyone who was in the country in order to identify and trace those who were criminals or committing crimes or high risk migrants.
The meeting was adjourned.

Cape’s spectacular growth set to continue with imminent air capacity increase

Cape’s spectacular growth set to continue with imminent air capacity increase
17 Oct 2017 – Tourism Update
Cape Town has seen double digit growth of international arrivals from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in the first half of this year.
Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Edelweiss and Eurowings will be adding or increasing frequency to Cape Town in the coming months.
Announcing the re-introduction of Austrian Airlines to South African skies, Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, said the demand for direct routes to Cape Town from key European markets was growing.
Cape Town has seen double-digit growth of international arrivals from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in the first half of this year.
International visitors from Germany grew by 10% and by 12% from Switzerland while a massive 25% increase in Austrian visitors to the Mother City was recorded.
“In the first half of this year, international arrivals to Cape Town grew by 27%,” said Harris. “If we carry on at this growth rate, in six years Cape Town International Airport will be the same size as OR Tambo International Airport.”
He said the growth in demand was clearly reflected in the expansion of routes such as those announced this week by the Lufthansa Group.
From October 27, 2018, Austrian Airlines will launch two weekly flights from Vienna to Cape Town. This year, from October 29, Lufthansa will increase its direct service from Frankfurt to Cape Town from three to five flights a week and from November 27, Edelweiss will fly from Zurich to Cape Town three times a week.
According to Dr André Schulz, Lufthansa Group Manager for Southern Africa, while the point-of-sale share was still higher on the airline’s Johannesburg routes, the growth and demand for increased services was being seen into Cape Town. “That is why the focus for introducing more capacity remains on Cape Town,” he told Tourism Update.
German, Swiss and Austrian travellers, he said, were increasingly looking for alternative holiday destinations and Cape Town was undoubtedly gaining traction. “It is not all that surprising that so many Europeans are happy to spend their holidays in the Western Cape. The destination offers very real value for money, which is why the various brands and hubs within our group continue to give Cape Town more attention. More flights, more services and more frequencies are on the cards.”
He said with this in mind Eurowings, the Lufthansa Group’s premium low-cost carrier, would introduce its new schedule to Cape Town in the next few weeks.
“The first aircraft will touch down at the Cape Town airport on November 6,” he said. Eurowings will operate a once-a-week flight between Cape Town and Cologne in Germany. According to Harris this opens the Western Cape up to an even greater number of German visitors.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunity and Tourism, told TU improved air access continued to be a focus for the government who were committed to growing tourism numbers even more.
He said a pipeline of projects were in place for 2018 as more routes would be unveiled to destinations around the world.
“In a country where we are battling to find 1% GDP growth, a 27% increase in international arrivals is a phenomenal number. In the upcoming summer season, we are scheduled to see an additional 130 000 international seats flying to our destination, due to the commitment of all airlines from all parts of the world to start operating new routes direct to Cape Town, or to expand their current flight schedules.”
Asked about the purchase of airberlin recently by the Lufthansa Group, Schulz said it would be incorporated into the Eurowings platform during the course of 2018.
“Airberlin will cease operations at the end of this month,” he said. “We will take over half of the fleet that includes 81 aircraft and 1 700 employees. The growth story of Eurowings will see acceleration just by this purchase of the Lufthansa Group. It is a major step in European airline consolidation.”

UK asylum seekers living in ‘squalid, unsafe slum conditions’

UK asylum seekers living in ‘squalid, unsafe slum conditions’
27 October 2017 –
Asylum seekers arriving in the UK are forced to live in “squalid, unsafe, slum housing conditions” and the public is largely unaware of the conditions into which “traumatised people are routinely dumped”, charities have said.
The £600m government contract to provide shelter for those seeking sanctuary in the UK goes up for tender next month as calls mount for for urgent reforms.
Testimonies from asylum seekers and frontline workers detail accommodation that is infested with vermin, insecure, damp and dirty. One woman in Greater Manchester described how she was forced to stay in the same house even after her newborn baby was covered with bites from bed bugs.
Another asylum seeker in Greater Manchester told of a sink pedestal that crashed though the ceiling into the area where she was living with her three children. Another in Merseyside shared images of her bedroom after the ceiling had collapsed for the second time in six months.
Charities also told the Guardian that women who had been trafficked had been put in housing with internal and external doors that did not lock securely. “You’re talking about people who have potentially been raped, sexually assaulted, tortured, not being able to lock their front door,” said Christina Bodenes from MRANG, a Merseyside charity that provides support to women their children seeking asylum. “It’s just a completely unacceptable situation.”
Responsibility for housing people seeking asylum in the UK was taken away from local authorities in 2012 and given to the companies Serco, G4S and Clearsprings, through contracts known as Compass.
The vast majority of asylum seekers are housed by G4S and Serco in the poorest parts of the country where housing is comparatively cheap. G4S holds Compass contracts for the north-east, Yorkshire and the Humber, the Midlands and the east of England, where 45% of the UK’s asylum seekers live.
Maurice Wren, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “All too often, people seeking asylum in the UK are forced to live in squalid, unsafe, slum housing conditions, at exorbitant cost to the public purse.
“Though the general public is largely unaware of the appalling conditions into which traumatised people are routinely dumped, ministers and officials are not, yet this scandal continues unchecked. The time has come to end this shameful practice and allow people seeking asylum to live in dignity.”
David Simmonds, the chair of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration taskforce, said councils regularly complained that they had little power to tackle the “generally unacceptable” standard of accommodation for asylum seekers in their areas, because the private contractors’ contracts are with the Home Office.
“The accommodation will always be at the lowest end of the market, because to win the contract the providers bid at the lowest possible price,” he said. “But vermin infestations and damp are things that would stop a local authority from considering that accommodation for placing UK homeless families. That same minimum standard should apply consistently.”
Graham O’Neill of the Scottish Refugee Council said asylum-seeker housing was a vital public service, “housing for a group of people who really need the stability and the privacy that a safe home and a safe space can bring”. It is “publicly funded and yet local authorities and devolved governments have no ability to hold these providers to account”, he said.
The north-west town has a higher concentration of asylum seekers than anywhere in England. Locals have been both generous and furious
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Asylum seekers do not have permission to work while awaiting a decision on their claim. Under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 they are able to apply for accommodation and financial help from the Home Office if they have no other means of supporting themselves.
Armed conflict and political instability in the Middle East and Africa have caused the number of people housed under the act to jump sharply during the life of the Compass contracts, from about 25,000 to 40,000 at the end of last year.
MPs on the home affairs select committee heard evidence last year that G4S and Serco were losing money on the Compass contracts, in part because of the increase in the number of asylum seekers and the rising cost of rents. Serco’s average monthly income per service user was about £300 in February 2016, compared with an average cost of around £450.
An asylum seeker’s room in Greater Manchester where a sink pedestal fell through the ceiling.
The committee published a report in January that said the government should act immediately to improve conditions. Ten months later, charities say there has been little improvement and the government is yet to respond to the findings.
It has said the previous month that the current Compass contracts would be extended for two years until August 2019. Contracts to provide asylum seeker accommodation from September 2019 until 2024 will be put out to tender in November.
A Home Office spokesperson said the ministry worked closely with contractors to ensure they provided accommodation that was “safe, habitable, fit for purpose and adequately equipped”, and that it investigated all complaints relating to sub-standard accommodation.
John Whitwam, G4S’s head of immigration and borders, said the standard of accommodation provided to asylum seekers was “subject to prescriptive criteria”, and that any failure to meet those criteria would result in a contract penalty.
“Since November 2013, we have not been subject to any performance penalties on the basis that we rectify many tens of thousands of defects each year to meet the required standard,” he said. “We continue to invest in our provision, despite heavy commercial losses.”
Scott Ross, Serco’s operations director, said the company was committed to ensuring they provided “decent and safe accommodation” for the 16,000 asylum seekers in its care, and that they met all of their contractual obligations.
“We are absolutely confident that the asylum seekers we look after are in housing of a decent standard, and where repairs are required to the 5,000 properties that we manage, these are completed in accordance with the strict timescales of our contract with the Home Office,” he said.
‘This house is awful’
When Maria – not her real name – fled her home in South America because she faced imprisonment without trial for protesting against the government, she was pregnant and homeless. Now her daughter is eight and they have been living in her current home for five years, but the property is still is barely habitable.
Maria says the accommodation in Leeds has got worse since G4S took over the contract. Her house is so riddled with mice that she and her daughter are forced to sleep with the lights on to stop them coming into their bedrooms.
“It’s not just the quality of the house I’m in, but the service has got worse,” she says. “I’m excited to move out of this house, but I already feel so sorry for the next family they are going to bring here. This house is awful.”
Another asylum seeker living in Greater Manchester said she was scared for the safety of her children, all under ten, after a sink pedestal fell through the ceiling of her living room in mid-July. “My daughter and son played in the same place [where the pedestal fell]. I was really scared,” she said. “When I go to sleep I think what could have happened.”

Oppenheimer-owned Fireblade wins court

Oppenheimer-owned Fireblade wins court
27 October 2017, iol
Pretoria – The Oppenheimer family’s company Fireblade on Friday won its legal battle in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria when a judge declared that former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba did indeed give the company the go-ahead to run a customs and immigration service at OR Tambo International Airport.
The approval was granted last year, but it was revoked a few days later, apparently following pressure from the Gupta family.
Fireblade subsequently asked the court to declare that the approval remained of force and effect and that it may not be revoked.
Judge Sulet Potterill said the facts reflect that the concept of establishing a fixed based aviation operation (FBO) was already floated in 2011 and had the support of OR Tambo International Airport, the airports company, Denel and the Department of Home Affairs.
It required Fireblade to adhere to many regulatory hoops from various departments and institutions. “It was a four year expensive exercise to establish this seven star facility,” the judge said.
She said the last step in the process was the approval by the minister. Fireblade claimed that at a meeting in January last year the minister informed all present that he had already signed the approval of the Fireblade application. The minister, in turn, denied this.
The judge said during January, last year’s meeting, the minister stated that all stakeholders had indicated their support. Only his approval was outstanding. Denel by then had already given its approval and relayed this to the minister.
Denel at the time said: “We are pleased to inform you that Denel approves and support our tenants in these premises. We are therefore endorsing the project to go-ahead…”
The minister then instructed that the operational plan had to be finalised, a feasibility study had to be done and he said that he would like to explore the possible use of a Fireblade facility to promote the new Premium Visa Visitation Centre for Businessmen.
He even at the time requested Fireblade to invite President Zuma to the formal opening ceremony to be held in future.
On the same day the Oppenheimers expressed their delight that “all outstanding matters were resolved”.
The judge said it seemed at that stage that after four years of negotiations and all the stakeholders buying into the project, all was set to go.
The minister a few days later announced that “the approval we granted them is suspended until further notice.”
The judge in this regard said: “If approval was to be given in future, what past approval needed to be suspended? She found that the minister’s reasons for the “suspension” were “palpably untrue”.
She said the minutes of the meeting reflected that the minister signed the approval. The minister, in turn, disputed that the minutes of the meeting was true and that he did give the go-ahead.
The judge, however, said: “I find the minister’s version to be rejected. I declare that the minister did on January 28, 2016, grant Fireblade’s application for an ad hoc international customs and immigration service component…”
She declared that the minister’s approval is thus of force and effect and may not be revoked without due cause. She said Fireblade can implement and rely on the approval.

Apleni ruling could have consequences for other suspended DGs

Apleni ruling could have consequences for other suspended DGs
EWN – 27 October 2017
CAPE TOWN – A court ruling setting aside the suspension of the Home Affairs Director General (DG), Mkuseli Apleni, could have consequences for two other suspended DGs.
The High Court found that unless delegated by the president, ministers do not have powers to suspend DGs.
The High Court found that unless delegated by the president, ministers do not have powers to suspend DGs.
The DGs of Water and Sanitation and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have been suspended on full pay for more than three months.
The Department of Water and Sanitation has confirmed that DG Dan Mashitisho remains on suspension and that his disciplinary process is still ongoing.
At the same time, Mike Mlengana, the DG of Agriculture, says the legally prescribed time for formal disciplinary proceedings to be instituted against him has passed, and he intends returning to work soon.
Labour lawyer Puke Maserumule says this week’s judgment in Apleni’s favour, has consequences for those in the same boat.
“The fact that you might have been suspended six months ago, doesn’t mean that because the judgment was handed down this week, your suspension is lawful.”

SA Unemployment Issues: This Is How The Guptas ‘Steal’ Jobs From South Africans

SA Unemployment Issues: This Is How The Guptas ‘Steal’ Jobs From South Africans

October 23, 2017 – Buzz South Africa

Latest report has shown that the Gupta family’s influence on the South African Home Affairs Department may have caused the increasing loss of jobs in the country.

The report says there were many qualified South Africans out of employment who could have done this work had the Gupta family not captured the Home Affairs Department.

The family and its businesses reportedly used top government officials to waive important requirements for work visas for at least 50 foreign nationals and family members, who were brought into South Africa to fill “critical” jobs such as project managers, chefs and chartered accountants.

This, the report says, turned the DHA into a family-own private permit-issuing factory and it was most effective during the time of Minister Malusi Gigaba who is now SA’s Minister of finance.

The project also involved a network of senior and middle-level department officials

SA unemployment rate is said to have risen by 1.2 of a percentage point to 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017 increased by 1.2 – the highest figure since September 2003.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, SA unemployment stood at 26.5%. Statistics SA also reported that there would be more bad news for job-seekers as the formal non-agricultural sector of the economy reported a decline of 34 000 jobs for the quarter ended June 2017.

This is according to the latest Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) report released by Statistics South Africa. The Zuma-led government laid the blame on an unequal distribution of wealth among citizens, hence the introduction of the Radical Economic Transformation in the early years of 2017. Others, however, blamed the government for doing little or nothing to combat the incessant flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

The evidence of the wholesale capture of the DHA is contained in the trove of Gupta e-mails which shows that despite the massive all effort to combat the effect of unemployment on the economy, dozens of curriculum vitae showing highly skilled people looking for jobs still exist.

Then there is the “creative brand manager” eventually employed as a creative director, who appeared to have entered SA in 2008. “It will be a huge loss to the company if we send him back and look out for new candidates since he has been instrumental in the launch of our new TV station and is leading a team of 30 interns (South Africans) and imparting skill sets needed to develop a new breed of TV professionals in the country,” reads the application for a waiver. This has raised the question that if he has been here since 2008, where is the list of people he is supposed to have trained, as required by the Immigration Act.

The rules for bringing foreign workers into SA is that they must school South Africans in their job. This means that a skills transfer plan is required for foreign nationals wanting to apply for an intra-company transfer visa, which forms the bulk of the Guptas’ applications to DHA.

The requirements for employing foreigners are governed by the Immigration Act, the Employment Services Act, and the Labour Relations Act and together they create a spiderweb of red tape. And all of it can be waved away with the stroke of a pen, legally. Many such waivers were signed.

As far as the relationship between the Guptas and DHA goes, it seems time can even be turned back, with a waiver for a project manager being signed off on October 1 in South Africa and the paperwork submitted on October 3 to India.

Foreign workers to bear brunt of proposed changes to SA immigration policy

Foreign workers to bear brunt of proposed changes to SA immigration policy
17 Oct 2017 – Tourism Update
Proposed changes to SA immigration policy with see companies having to fork out more.
With an overhaul of South Africa’s immigration system imminent and uncertainty over the impact of some of the proposed changes, concerns are being expressed and companies are advised to keep a close watch. Liesl Venter finds out more.
The White Paper on Immigration released by the Department of Home Affairs in July this year will introduce significant changes to the immigration landscape and, while much is still up in the air, companies can expect to fork out more.
“It is virtually going to become impossible for a foreigner working in South Africa to become a permanent resident (PR) and, following that, a full citizen,” says Johan Lubbe, Managing Member of Immigration Boutique. “If one looks at where they are going with this, it becomes clear the government is only going to take the cream of the crop and they simply do not want permanent resident holders.”
The best advice to anyone considering citizenship in South Africa is therefore to apply sooner rather than later because come 2019 it will be near impossible.
According to Gavin Colaco, Practice Leader at Fragomen Africa, the movement from PR to citizenship should not be an issue for employees, nor be relevant in the employer/employee relationship. “A PR holder enjoys the same rights as a citizen, except participation in elections into government structures (local, provincial and national). A PR holder does not require a work visa and can change employment at any time without limitation, just like a citizen. There should be no impact on the company when a PR holder has difficulty to qualify for citizenship, unless the company rules specify that some roles are only for citizens, and if that is the case, then the company itself could be adopting unfair labour practices that are constitutionally illegal,” Colaco says.
But, should employees be restricted in getting PR status, it will be a different story altogether – as the only option open to foreigners will be work permits.
According to Colaco, South Africa still remains a strategic country for companies to use as a base and to make inroads to the African continent for business growth and investment. “The challenges with immigration do present hurdles to the smooth deployment of individuals into South Africa and the trend continues. This does definitely impact the ability to import the appropriate and much-needed skills into the country to catalyse growth and development,” he says.
“For instance, there is a specific type of visa called the Critical Skills Visa which is designed to respond to companies’ needs for skills by attracting talent in those skill shortage areas. However, the challenge lies in the fact that the skills list needs to be updated and published by the Minister responsible, after consultation across all government departments and industries that require skills that are either not available or in short supply. The last time this was done was back in 2014 resulting in the skills list being potentially outdated. Therefore, companies struggle to bring in bright talent involved in cutting-edge technological advancements, owing to the fact that this visa category operates on an outdated skills list,” Colaco explains.
He says the biggest challenges with the White Paper are the inconsistent decision-making (adjudication) both in South Africa and foreign missions, the long turnaround times that are also inconsistent from mission to mission and country to country, the varying interpretation of the immigration legislation, and the ongoing requests for additional documents and information not in the legislation.
According to Hanniff Hoosen, DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, while the approach to introduce more control over one’s borders is commendable, a restrictive approach can be damaging. “The barriers to entry being created are questionable. We are introducing a restrictive system for those who comply with the law while at the same time making it extremely easy for immigrants who don’t comply to literally just walk across our border. It does not make sense,” he says.
According to Hoosen, while the changes in the immigration policy will impact on business, the bigger fear lies in the message being sent to the rest of the world – that it is difficult to do business in South Africa.
Gershon Mosiane, Chairman of the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA), says even applying for work visas is becoming increasingly difficult and fewer and fewer are being issued every year. “It is costing companies huge amounts of money to apply for these visas and there is no guarantee their employees are going to get them,” he says.
“We are currently working on a case where a metal manufacturing company is about to shut its doors as the skilled experts it has brought in are not getting their visas,” Mosiane adds.
He says the critical skills list is also questionable. “They have sheep shearers on that list, but engineers working at a manufacturing plant employing hundreds of South Africans are not able to get a work visa. This makes no sense,” Mosiane says.
According to Lubbe, it is not only becoming increasingly difficult to apply for these visas but also more expensive. “Companies are best advised to keep a close eye on these policy developments. It is still extremely uncertain and difficult to say what the exact impacts will be, but indications are that the negatives at present far outweigh the positives.”

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