Archive from July, 2020
Jul 30, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

South Africa: DA Requests That Home Affairs Ensures That South Africans Living and Working Abroad Have an Extension Stamp Applied to Their Expiring Passports

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is aware that the DHA has directed that
passport renewal applications for citizens living abroad are to
resume as of 27 July 2020 since the closure of that service in late
March.
However, given the already massive backlog of applications, and that
renewals abroad already take 6 to 12 months as well as new
uncertainties around processing times due to the lockdown in South
Africa, this is of little immediate assistance to those citizens.
It is for this reason that my colleague in Parliament, DA Shadow
Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Adrian Roos MP, has written to the
Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to request that the
passports of those working and living abroad, in need of urgent
renewal, are stamped to remain valid for a period to cover the long
waiting times of 6 to 12 months.
The issue of the inefficiency and lack of timeliness in processing
passports for those living, working and travelling abroad is not new,
it is a decade old problem that both the DHA and their colleagues at
the Department of International Relations and Cooperation have shown
minimal interest in rectifying.
Government simply cannot blame the Covid-19 pandemic for these
delays, as it has only worsened an already dire situation of poor
service delivery. It is completely unacceptable that citizens abroad
are left in a practical position of statelessness for an undisclosed
number of months.
The DA will continue to sound the alarm on the inefficiencies of Home
Affairs in protecting the interests of South African citizens abroad.
www.samigration.com

Jul 28, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert level 3 during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown

Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert level 3 during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown
The following is an extraction from the orginal gazetted Alert Level 3 regulations (Gazette 43364 of 28 May 2020). Amendments as gazetted in Gazette 43476 of 25 June 2020 are indicated as follows – changes. Amendments as gazetted in Gazette 43521 of 12 July 2020 are indicated as follows – changes. Amendments as gazetted in Gazette 43577 of 31 July 2020 are indicated as follows
(4) Movement of persons between provinces is prohibited, except for-
(a) persons doing so in the course of carrying out work responsibilities or performing any service permitted under Alert Level 3, provided that such person is in possession of a permit issued by the employer which corresponds with Form 2 of Annexure A;
(b) persons travelling for purposes of-
(i) moving to a new place of residence; or
(ii) caring for an immediate family member: Provided that such person is in possession of an affidavit which corresponds with Form 6 of Annexure A;
(c) members of Parliament performing oversight responsibilities;
(d) learners or students referred to in regulation 34(5) who have to commute to and from those schools or institutions of higher learning during periods when those schools or institutions are permitted to operate;
(e) the attendance of funerals as provided for in regulation 35;
(f) the transportation of mortal remains;
(g) obtaining medical treatment;
(h) persons who are returning to their place of residence from a quarantine or isolation facility; or
(i) any movement permitted under regulation 41.
Movement of children
34. (1) The movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights or a caregiver, as defined in section 1(1) of the Children`s Act, 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005), in the same metropolitan area or district municipality is allowed if the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights or a caregiver are or is in possession of-
(a) a court order;
(b) a parental responsibilities and rights agreement or parenting plan, registered with the family advocate; or
(c) a permit issued by a magistrate which corresponds with Form 3 of Annexure A, if the documentation in paragraphs (a) and (b) is not available.
(2) The movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights or a caregiver, as defined in section 1(1) of the Children`s Act, 2005 between different metropolitan areas, district municipalities or provinces is allowed if the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights or a caregiver are or is in possession of a permit, issued by a magistrate which corresponds with Form 3 of Annexure A.
(3) A person applying for a permit contemplated in this regulation must confirm that the household to which the child has to move must be free of COVID-19.
(4) (a) Before a magistrate issues a permit referred to in subregulation (1)(c), he or she must be provided with-
(i) a birth certificate or certified copy of a birth certificate of the child or children to prove a legitimate relationship between the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights; and
(ii) written reasons why the movement of the chi ld is necessary.
(b) Before a magistrate issues a permit referred to in subregulation (2), he or she must be provided with-
(i) a court order;
(ii) a parental responsibilities and rights agreement or parenting plan registered with the family advocate; or
(iii) a birth certificate or certified copy of a birth certificate of the child or children to prove a legitimate relationship between the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights; and
(iv) written reasons why the movement of the child is necessary.
(5) Any learner or student must be issued with a certificate which corresponds with Form 3A of Annexure A, by the head of his or her school or institution of higher learning, or a person delegated by him or her, that the learner or student attends that school or institution of higher learning for purposes of travel between provinces.
(6) The certificate referred to in subregulation (5) must contain the name and address of the school or institution of higher learning and the particulars of the learner or student concerned.
(7) A person transporting a learner or student must be issued with a permit, corresponding with Form 3B of Annexure A, by the head of the school or institution of higher learning contemplated in subregulation (5), or a person delegated by him or her, allowing him or her to transport learners or students to and from the school or institution.

Jul 25, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Americans Can Travel â€` But Should They?

For our Viewpoint series, Skift invites thought leaders, some from the less obvious corners of travel, to join in the conversation. We know that these independent voices are important to the dialogue within the industry. Our guest columnists will identify and shape what global trends and through lines will define the future of travel.
The Houston Chronicle recently ran a story about swank local road trips. That same week the paper ran a story about how Houston’s emergency rooms were at capacity thanks to Covid. The whole thing made my head spin. While Americans go about summer vacation as usual, our infection rates continue to rise, even though we know staying home lowers transmission of the disease and decreases the load on health services.
We can travel. we can book a plane ticket and a hotel room and in some places, we can eat in restaurants. In some places, we can go to the movies or the mall or Disney World.
I’m not interested in what we can do. I’m concerned about what we should do. That means we all have an ethical choice to make when it comes to travel.
YOU DO NOT NEED A VACATION
There’s a case to be made for some travel. Travel to support family isn’t always optional. Business travel is problematic, and we have proven much of it unnecessary, but I’ll concede there’s some essential business travel.
But what about Americans taking vacations?
The questions I have are global, but New Zealand aggressively flattened its curve so the answers there are different. For the sake of not going insane, let’s narrow the scope to Americans who skip out for a domestic beach weekend or summer road trip. Let’s focus on Americans who travel because we want to, not because we “have” to.
I don’t care how much you “need” a vacation. You do not “need” to go to the Outer Banks or the Gulf Coast or Mendocino or Jackson Hole. You can not convince me otherwise, don’t try.
JUST THE FACTS
Science tells us a lot about what’s safe; it helps us mitigate risk. Science tells us to get vaccinated for measles, mosquitoes carry malaria, some cancers can be cured, even. So far, science says if we all wear masks and distance, we drastically reduce our risk of getting Covid-19. Science tells us coronavirus is essentially spread by us breathing on each other over extended periods of time, with the risk being higher when we’re indoors. This stuff, it’s just the facts, ma’am, and it’s without moral judgement. When people wear masks, distance, and/or stay outside, transmission rates are lower than when they don’t. When people isolate themselves from others, transmission rates are lower than when we socialize as usual. Facts.
Ethics considers the implications of our actions when we apply â€` or don’t apply â€` the science. Science tells me my mask slows the transmission of Covid-19. My moral compass tells me, a person who defers to science (though science doesn’t care if I believe in it or not), slowing the spread of coronavirus is the right thing to do.
FRAUGHT WITH COMPLICATIONS
When I consider vacations in the time of coronavirus, I think about what I’m asking people to do for me. Using a hotel or holiday rental creates the need for check-in and housekeeping services. When I travel, I want restaurants and food service. If I fly, I must clear security and board a plane with a full crew. I may need a rental car or I can choose public transportation. Any activity has staff: tour guides, ticket takers, the guy driving the shuttle for the river float. The mascot in a Goofy costume at Disney World may be safer from exposure than a janitor cleaning the restrooms, but they’re both putting themselves at some level of risk so I can enjoy the Magic Kingdom.
It’s easy to think vacations are a good thing because they create jobs. It’s easy to rationalize things we think are fun But vacations also create dozens of contact points. And they show a real lack of consideration for workers, for the woman who cleans the Adventureland restroom. It’s unethical to require a worker put herself repeatedly in a high risk situation just because I want to visit the Enchanted Tiki Room.
What if I take my crew to the coast or a remote town instead? We’ll get an Airbnb on the Oregon coast or West Yellowstone or the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ll support small town businesses and outdoor recreation.
Nope.
We still don’t have reliable rapid testing. I can’t guarantee I’ll arrive at my destination Covid-19 free. If I get sick, I may divert valuable resources away from residents. Flattening the curve isn’t just about keeping case numbers low, it’s about conserving resources. If my mutli-generational reunion requires coronavirus care, we may tap out what’s available locally â€` and expose a place where there had been few cases.
Self-contained travel away from other people seems the only way to minimize not only my risk but the risk I’m expecting other people to take on. RVs are hot right now (though see above about potential impact on small towns), and once I’m more than a mile away from the trailhead, crowds diminish markedly. If the backcountry is calling you, now’s the time. The key is to minimize all interactions with others outside your household. Backcountry travel is physical distancing to an extreme.
Everything, anything else feels fraught with complications. Everything else feels unethical.
THE FASTEST WAY TO GET OUR VACATIONS BACK
We should stay home.
Travel has long thrived on exploitation; coronavirus adds a new and potentially fatal layer. We reopened our businesses too soon and we’re paying the price with public health. We are being selfish and unethical by acting like it’s just another American summer. We are not doing workers a favor by insisting they pull us a frosty cold one at the bar, we will not save B&Bs by insisting they serve us while we sicken the staff.
Our government refuses to lead with science or ethics, so we must do so ourselves. The science says if we wear masks, practice distancing, and limit our movement, we can get coronavirus under control.
Embracing science isn’t just smart, it’s ethical, too, and the fastest way to get our vacations back
www.samigration.com

Jul 24, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

BORDERS ARE OPEN: IT’S PEAK HOLIDAY SEASON IN EUROPE BUT ARE EUROPEANS REALLY TRAVELING?

It was just under six weeks ago that Europe opened its internal borders in the hopes of salvaging a summer season of travel. So it’s worth asking now how that season is looking.
The prospect of traveling in Europe versus the U.S. at this time is quite different. Europe has largely, if not wholly, beat the virus down. While no form of travel is risk-free during a pandemic, the lower level of virus circulation in Europe makes summer travel a different beast than in the U.S.
However, Europe’s progress remains tenuous.
It’s also worth noting that, in Europe, the July and August vacation season is seen as something of a human right. As journalist Yasmeen Serhan wrote in The Atlantic earlier this summer, unlike the U.S. “Europe savors the summer: a sacred time in July and August when vacations are planned, shops are closed, and the continent agrees to go on a collective pause.”
Given the complexities and uncertainties associated with travel at the moment, however, it’s been anyone’s guess whether or not Europeans would in fact take to planes, trains, and automobiles in order to claim this right of theirs. While no one is expecting 2020s summer to reach 2019 levels, there are some indicators that Europeans are hitting the road.
The opening in June certainly resulted in an increase in bookings to holiday hotspots, said Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys. “When Spain, Portugal and Greece announced they would reopen for travel, there was an immediate pick up in Intra-European flight bookings to those destinations,” Ponti told Skift. “In the five weeks following the announcements, the combined booking levels for the three countries rose to 65 percent of last year’s bookings during the equivalent period. By comparison, all intra-European bookings have recovered to 45 percent of last year’s levels over that period.”
ForwardKeys data also showed that during the week of July 13, there were more new bookings than cancellations to the European Union from Europe for the first time since the pandemic began.
In a survey conducted by Eurail, roughly a third of respondents said they intended to stick to their holiday plans for this year. Dutch citizens were the most steadfast, with 41 percent keeping their plans, followed by German (31 percent) and British citizens (30 percent). The survey also noted that 37 percent of respondents said that flexible cancellations and refund policies are most important to their decision making on taking trips, above low cost or promotional fares.
In some ways, Europe is in the best position to see some form of recovery. As the European Travel Commission noted in its second quarter report, the “likelihood of a stable and quick recovery of travel demand is likely to be greater for destinations that rely more heavily on domestic and short-haul travelers.” In that regard, Europe is well-placed. In 2019, the average share of international arrivals that were from short-haul markets in Europe was 77 percent. Meanwhile, the share of domestic travelers was 44.5 percent across Europe, based on data from hotel stays.
However while bookings are up overall compared to the depths of the lockdown, that doesn’t necessarily mean trips taken â€` especially in the era of hyper-flexible cancellations. Tim Fairhurst, secretary general of the European Tourism Association, told Skift that situations like Barcelona going back into some form of lockdown may remain a huge thorn in the summer season’s side.
“The appetite is there, and bookings are picking up, but fear of finding yourself on the wrong side of a newly closed border is proving to be a factor,” Fairhurst said. “As are situations such as Barcelona’s, where the regional government has reintroduced recommended (not mandated) restrictions, which don’t obviously affect visitors. So we’ve got the novel prospect of risk of resentment for tourism returning at precisely the time when destinations want to welcome its return.”
www.samigration.com

Surging cost of UK visa appointments in wake of coronavirus leaving families without legal documentation

Exclusive: Family of five forced to pay £440 to submit biometrics for their application after the only available appointments, which are normally free
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People living in the UK legally are being left without proof of their immigration status because of soaring charges for visa appointments during the pandemic, lawyers have warned.
Refugees and authorised migrants have been deprived of access to public services because they have been unable to afford appointments to obtain the required documentation since visa centres started reopening last month.
Others have spent thousands of pounds on appointments being offered at a higher than usual cost, out of fear that any delay in submitting their biometrics will put their application in jeopardy.
UK visa centres are run by private firm Sopra Steria, after the company took on a Home Office contract last year. While applicants could previously go to their local post office to provide biometric data such as fingerprints free of charge, they now attend one of six “core centres” across the country which offer a free service, or another 51 which usually charge a fee starting from £69.99.
All visa application centres within the UK closed in late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Sopra Steria announced at the end of May that a phased reopening of visa centres was to begin on 1 June, though it said the service was operating at a “lower capacity than usual”, with fewer service points open across the country.
While the centres have been closed, many visa applicants – including refugees who are required to apply for leave to remain after being in the UK for five years – have been unable to proceed with their applications, leaving them in a “state of limbo” and in some cases unable to access state support, according to lawyers.
Since visa centres have started to reopen, immigration solicitors say they have struggled to find free appointments at the six core centres on Sopra Steria’s online booking system, while the paid-for options are charging considerably more than normal.
In one case, a Japanese man had to pay £440 to submit his wife and children’s biometrics for their application for indefinite leave to remain, as the only appointments they could find at the Croydon centre – one of the “core” facilities – were £110 each.
Immigration adviser Anton Koval, from the Legal Centre, who has been aiding the family, said: “They had already paid a few thousand pounds for the immigration fees for five people. They didn’t want to wait long as the time they had to submit the biometrics was running out. It’s totally unfair. It’s profiteering.”
In another case, a family of seven who arrived in the UK in February 2020 on a family reunion visa, to join their refugee father, had to travel from Liverpool to Birmingham in early July in order to attend a free appointment, because it was the only one available and they couldn’t afford to pay the £770 – £110 each – for a slot more locally. A charity paid for their train fare and provided face masks for the journey.
Judith Carter, lecturer and in-house solicitor at the University of Liverpool Law Clinic, who is representing the family, said it took her 10 days to find a free appointment for the clients, and that in order to do so she had to log onto Sopra Steria’s booking website at 1am.
She said: “This family has had to wait an additional four months to submit their biometrics because of lockdown, and then they had the cost of travel to Birmingham, plus the cost to the local council supporting them and the charity supporting them. It’s not just the cost, it’s also forcing a large family to wander about on public transport during a pandemic. It’s needless.
“Sopra Steria is prioritising the paid appointments over the free appointments. Profit is prioritised over people who the UK has an international obligation to support and welcome.”
David Pountney, senior solicitor at Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU), said he had been logging onto the booking website late at night and early in the morning in a bid to find free appointments since visa centres started to reopen, but had only managed to find one.
He said most of his clients couldn’t afford to pay for appointments, leaving them “stuck in limbo” for a prolonged period, and in some cases without access to any public services and at risk of destitution.
“Some of them who had no status before are still stuck with no right to access anything. The decision has usually been made and they’re just waiting for the fingerprints to issue the card to prove it. They could’ve had recourse to public funds months ago, and during this time in particular it’s really needed,” he added.

The limited number of free appointments available are almost one month in advance (UKVAS.co.uk)
Sonia Lenegan, legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), said the organisation had been raising the fact that people were unable to access free appointments to register their biometrics with the Home Office “for weeks now”, but that nothing had changed.
She added: “It was entirely foreseeable that once the centres opened up again that there would be a backlog of people who needed these appointments, and availability was a problem even before the pandemic.”
A Sopra Steria spokesperson said: “We recognise it has been a difficult time for people unable to access appointments because of the global pandemic.”
They said the company had made “significant progress” in reducing the number of customers waiting for an appointment and that, under direction from the Home Office, it was working to release as many new appointments as possible while considering the safety of customers and staff.
The spokesperson added: “During this time, we have continued to make more than half of our appointments at core sites available for free, between 9am-7pm Monday to Friday. As expected, there has been unprecedented demand for these free appointments and customers with urgent or exceptional cases can contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) using the Coronavirus Immigration Team helpline.”
Home Office facing investigation for breach of law over outsourced visa service deluged with complaints
They said that in order to reduce the number of people needing to attend a service point and minimise waiting times for appointments, the company was looking to introduce a new process which will facilitate the Home Office reusing previously supplied biometrics for some customers, adding: “We look forward to providing more information on this very soon.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing a world class service and visa applicants still have the option to book a free appointment at six core centres across the UK including London, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester.”
They said other UK visa centres were reopening “as soon as they can, in line with public health guidance, to provide more appointments for visa applicants”.
www.samigration.com

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