Jun 26, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

SA promises to improve processing of refugees on World Refugee Day

SA promises to improve processing of refugees on World Refugee Day
20 June 2017 – Times Live

South Africa has offered hope for refugees and asylum seekers‚ promising to digitise its systems to make their lives easier.
Home affairs deputy minister Fatima Chohan said the department would soon be introducing biometric smart cards for refugees‚ similar to the new identity cards for South African citizens.
At an event hosted by the department at Durban’s Playhouse Theatre‚ Chohan said that South Africa had processed two million asylum seekers since 1998.
“If you compare that the fact that the whole of Europe‚ 27 countries‚ have processed four million people during this latest crisis‚ you can see what a challenge this has been for us‚” she said.
She added that not only did South Africa have a record low number of asylum seekers last year but a record number of 35‚000 were processed.
“We have changed the way we process asylum seekers. We have gone digital and it has improved our efficiency. This means that more refugees are able to access assistance and services‚” she said.
She said the hope is that the biometric card for refugees will start being issued from Thursday this week.
“It ends potential for fraud as every aspect is processed electronically‚” she said.
This comes as the United Nations Refugee Agency on June 19 – the day before World Refugee Day on Wednesday – released its annual Global Trends study. The report found that 65.5-million people were “forcibly replaced” worldwide by the end of last year.
“On average‚ 20 people were driven from their homes every minute last year‚ or one every three seconds‚” the agency said.
Syria was the largest producer of refugees for the seventh straight year – but it was the 737‚404 people displaced in South Sudan that pushed the numbers up even more severely last year. Children make up half the world’s refugees.

Jun 26, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

ALERT: Home Affairs services hard-hit due to ‘insufficient staff’

ALERT: Home Affairs services hard-hit due to ‘insufficient staff’
Cape Town – The Department of Home Affairs confirms that over 90% of DHA offices are closed on Saturday due to insufficient staff numbers, which Home Affairs says is not inline with the recent settlement agreement with the Unions.
This comes after the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) threatened to down tools due to working conditions at Home Affairs.
The DHA issued a statement apologising to the public for the “inconvenience caused”, saying it is “disappointed by these developments as they are not in line with the spirit of the agreement and the resolutions of discussions that took place up to Friday, 23 June”.
The DHA has confirmed to Traveller24 the incapacity is not expected to affect passport control for those travelling internationally – but specifically front offices, facilitating ID, Passport and birth registrations as well as collections, including visas.
This comes ahead of one of our busiest periods in the year – the school winter holidays starting at the end of June.
Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni says the dispute relates to ongoing issues within the department, also relating to front offices’ working hours implemented in 2015.
The unions were determined to register a strike if demands are not worked out “favourably for its
The strike planned for Monday 19 June was called off following the DHA’s withdrawal of measures to force its staff to work on Saturdays without paying them overtime, but offering them a specified timetable of time off in lieu instead.
It has taken months of negotiation to resolve issues ongoing issues within the department, relating to front offices weekend working hours implemented in 2015 and the restructuring of time off in lieu instead of paid overtime.
Following the DHA’s withdrawal of the “circular introducing the shift system” it now has 10 days to review the process.
The Department is appealing to the union leadership to prioritise resolving this matter urgently as agreed with the unions during negotiations. “The Public Service Commission, the unions and the Department believe quality service delivery to our people is of utmost importance in line with our values,” says the Department.
“We are hopeful this matter will be resolved amicably soon because the public deserves a better service from all of us,” adds the Department.

Jun 22, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

South Africa’s borders may become even more unwelcoming to asylum seekers

South Africa’s borders may become even more unwelcoming to asylum seekers
Jun 20, 2017 – The Daily Vox
Asylum seekers may face greater difficulties entering South Africa once Parliament enacts legislation to create a new agency that will have full control of the country’s borders and ports, and once the department of home affairs opens new processing centres for asylum seekers.
Border management is currently provided by several state departments and agencies including the department of home affairs, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the South African Police Service (SAPS), overseen by the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee.
This month Parliament approved the controversial Border Management Authority Bill, which could simultaneously subject asylum seekers to far worse conditions than they currently face, while paving the way for greater levels of corruption at the country’s ports of entry.
One MP described the bill as “one of the worst pieces of legislation that has come before the House” and the Daily Maverick’s Richard Poplack dubbed it the country’s “next nightmare”.
Loren Landau, the South African Research Chair in Mobility and the Politics of Difference at the African Centre for Migration and Society, said he feared that the bill would create a largely unaccountable agency that will regulate the border as much for profile as for protection of South Africans or migrants. This could give rise to greater levels of exploitation, organised crime and violence.
For example, the bill empowers agents to search people without warrants and to “seize anything found in that search or inspection that may be lawfully seized”. Landau said asylum seekers were already subject to a range of invasive practices, but that the checks proposed in this bill “give officials enormous opportunities to extract resources of various kinds from asylum seekers”.
One of the criticisms of the bill has been that resources collected by customs – estimated to be worth R3-billion a year – would be collected by home affairs rather than SARS, and that there was no indication of how the money would be used. It is also unclear where the bill’s proposed ‘border guards’ would be drawn from and what powers they would hold.
Landau said we must ask whether the bill is solving a problem. “Clearly there is an impression that it will solve uncontrolled migration into South Africa. I don’t think that is such a problem and I don’t think this bill …will address the problems that people think we have,” he said.
Earlier this month, Minister of Home Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize said in a statement that the bill would represent a “radical shift from the colonial and apartheid systems”. But Landau disagreed, saying the bill suggests a recolonisation and nationalisation of border control “in much of the way the militarisation of the borders happened during the apartheid era.”
Meanwhile, government has been laying down plans to begin building massive border camps in which to house the approximately 70 000 people who apply for refugee status in South Africa each year.
Roshan Dadoo, director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa) said processing centres at borders urgently need to be looked at. “These new processing centres are so unclear, even in the Refugee Amendment Bill, the way it is worded means they will be detention centres,” she said. This is because people would only be allowed to leave the centres if they met specific requirements before the interview deciding their refugee status is held.
According to the department of home affairs, over 90% of asylum seekers don’t qualify for refugee status. Administrative errors have also lead to a massive backlog of cases, a problem Dadoo said was not being addressed by the Department of Home Affairs.
“What is needed is to improve the status adjudication system so people can have interviews done in a much quicker way. At the moment, people are running on asylum-seeker status for ten years or more.”
Although government says the Border Management Authority is being set up to prevent drug-related crimes, human trafficking, the illegitimate movement of goods and the unauthorised movement of persons, and that its border processing centres are meant to reduce backlogs in applications for asylum, these moves could further alienate asylum seekers even future. With many South Africans already hostile towards immigrants, the country could soon become an even more dangerous place for those fleeing persecution in search of a better life

Jun 22, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Uprooted: Zimbabweans may soon be forced to leave SA

Uprooted: Zimbabweans may soon be forced to leave SA
20 June 2017 – Times Live

Zimbabweans who came to South Africa after the economic collapse of 2008 are facing the threat of having to uproot themselves once more as their visas expire.

Stan Passoh and his wife Hamu left Zimbabwe with a car‚ a few hundred dollars‚ a one-year-old child and his three-year-old sister in 2008 as the country’s economy collapsed.
Now living in Cape Town‚ they have jobs‚ a small business and their two children attend middle class Cape Town primary schools. But their seven-year visas are to expire soon so they may be forced to start their lives again.
The Passohs started life in South Africa with four other families in a crowded house in Delft in the Western Cape.
They wanted their children to have a childhood similar to theirs with “good education and three meals a day” something unattainable in Zimbabwe. Passoh worked as a cab driver for four years before starting a junk removal business that employs two South Africans. His wife worked as sales person at a local gym‚ where she is now employed in management.
But now as their special dispensation visas expire in December after seven years of living legally in South Africa and working‚ they have to return home.The visas allowed Zimbabweans‚ many who were already in South Africa to come forward and legalise their status‚ if they were working or studying here. They were four year-long visas‚ extendable for another three years.
Leon Isaacson‚ Global Migration SA managing director‚ said there are an estimated 200‚000 Zimbabweans on these Special Dispensation visas that expire after seven years in December.
It means these working‚ tax-paying individuals have to uproot their families‚ leave their home and return to a country with few jobs or opportunities. The Zimbabweans cannot apply for permanent residency as a condition of the visa. They have to return to Zimbabwe to apply for a new visa.
There is “nothing” in Zimbabwe‚ said Passoh‚ who sold his printing business before coming to South Africa.
He said returning to Zimbabwe to apply for a new visa to remain in South Africa could take months and will mean they will lose their jobs in South Africa.
About 200 other Zimbabweans and companies they work for are joining Isaacson in a special action to try to get a special exemption from Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize to stay in the country permanently.
Isaacson said: “They are all productive and economically active members of South African society and do not see a future for themselves in Zimbabwe‚ as their families and friends have kept them informed of the situation there.
“This is a private and individual application initiative which will request specific terms including permanent residence‚ as people are tired of living transitory lives. These applicants are all economically active‚ often employing South Africans and law abiding members of South African society. After seven years on short term special permits‚ they have shown that they can contribute to the country.”
He called Zimbabweans to come forward and join the action.
But this special application is proving difficult as their access to the minister has been blocked.
But Isaacson’s company approached the visa service VFS to ask about applying for an exemption to allow them to apply for permanent residency.
They were told it is not possible in a letter seen by The Times.
Isaacson said VFS is a service provider and it does not have authority to speak on behalf of the minister and block special exemption applications.
Home Affairs said VFS was just doing its job. Minister’s spokesperson Mpume Madlala said: “The ZSP‚ special dispensation permit‚ is issued with clear conditions‚ like (1) it doesn’t lead to permanent residence‚ (2) no change of conditions while in RSA. The Zimbabweans are fully aware of these conditions because they are stated on the ZSP permit itself and they cannot blame VFS for implementing the conditions as stipulated on their ZSP conditions.”
The impasse has left has left the 200 Zimbabweans who are part of Isaacson’s action unable to approach the minister for an exemption.
The Zimbabweans’ action is now in limbo‚ but Isaacson intends to find a way to make an application to the minister to ask her to allow Zimbabweans who have been working and living here for seven years to stay.
The application is not yet a court action but Isaacson could turn to the courts if unsuccessful.
VFS referred all queries to the Department of Home Affairs.

Jun 21, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Will the Zimbabwe Special Permit be renewed?

Will the Zimbabwe Special Permit be renewed?
Zimbabwean immigrants want clarity as permit expires in six months
9 June 2017 – Groundup
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has told holders of the Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP) not to panic, but to await the decision by the department on the extension of their permits, due to expire on 31 December 2017.
This comes amid growing concern among Zimbabweans and civil society organisations such as the Scalabrini Centre and PASSOP (People Against Suffering Oppression Poverty).
“We believe that it is important for the DHA to give clear instructions to the over 200,000 people concerned. A renewal process can take several months to prepare for and complete, and those on the ZSP should be given at least six months to understand clearly what their options are and to make plans accordingly,” said Mirande Madikane, director of the Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town.
On Monday (5 June), the Scalabrini advocacy team sent a letter to both the Minister and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs requesting the department to issue a clear statement on the renewal of the ZSP.
Tendai Bhiza of PASSOP agreed. “I think ZSP holders should be fairly and equally treated. PASSOP is appealing to the department to consider the [ZSP] holders for a permanent residence as a long term solution,” said Bhiza.
Spokesperson for the Department, Thabo Mokgola, said, “Home Affairs will be making an announcement on the ZSP in due course. Currently, there is a cabinet process underway on the matter.”
However, when asked in December last year, Mokgola told GroundUp the Minister had made it clear that there would not be an extension on ZSP.
The Zimbabwe Special Permit is the successor of the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project implemented in 2010 allowing Zimbabweans to stay, work and study in South Africa.

Jun 21, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Home affairs to brief parliament on Guptas’ naturalisation

Home affairs to brief parliament on Guptas’ naturalisation
20.6.2017 – Citizen

The department maintains the application to grant the controversial family citizenship was lawful.
Parliament’s oversight committee on home affairs will be briefed this morning by the department on the naturalisation application process of the Gupta family by then minister Malusi Gigaba.
This follows letters revealed by the EFF last Monday showing that Gigaba, who’s now finance minister, unduly granted the controversial family early naturalisation on May 30, 2015, despite the department’s director-general rejecting the Guptas’ aplication on January 22, 2015.
Gigaba confirmed that the letters were genuine during a press conference last Tuesday and said the entire process to grant the family citizenship had been handled by the book in terms of the country’s laws.
He also requested the department of home affairs to provide chronological details of how all applications by the Guptas have been handled by the ministry from the beginning.
The EFF has indicated it would challenge the matter in court.

Jun 21, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Rough welcome: Could South Africa’s new border detention centres turn deadly?

Rough welcome: Could South Africa’s new border detention centres turn deadly?
24 May 2017 – bhekisisa

Experts warn that the country’s overburdened asylum system could leave people trapped at ‘processing centres’ for years
South Africa is to begin building massive border camps that could eventually house the more than 70 000 people who apply for refugee status annually. But civil society organisations warn that these centres could put migrants’ rights and health at risk.
It was announced that cabinet had greenlighted the creation of what the department of home affairs is calling “asylum seeker processing centres” on May 17 after it approved the department’s white paper on international migration.
The centres, the first of which may be at Komatipoort near the Mozambican border, will accommodate asylum seekers until the home affairs department decides whether they qualify for refugee status.
Asylum seekers already undergo a lengthy process to prove that they cannot return to their home countries for fear of war, persecution or violence.
Although the white paper does say that some asylum seekers may be able to leave the centres before their applications have been adjudicated, it is unclear who might qualify for early release.
Currently, those seeking asylum wait about three years to hear whether their application has been successful, according to a 2015 study by the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) and legal advocacy group Lawyers for Human Rights. The longest reported time spent in the system was just under 19 years.
Roshan Dadoo is the regional advocacy officer at the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa). She says administrative bungling has led to a huge backlog in appeals that could leave people stuck at centres for years.
Continued alleged abuses at Lindela could be a warning
Meanwhile, some experts fear South Africa’s track record with detention centres for migrants does not bode well for the shift to large-scale camps.
The Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp for undocumented migrants has a long history of human rights abuses. In 1999, a South African Human Rights Commission investigation into Lindela found poor nutrition and medical care were common.
A year later, the body cited concerns over living conditions, assault and the centre’s treatment of children, who it is not authorised to house. The commission noted that people who had been transferred to Lindela from prisons often reported that correctional facilities offered better living conditions.
The government has largely ignored reports of abuses at Lindela, said Sharon Ekambaram, the head of the refugee and migrant rights programme at Lawyers for Human Rights.
Ekambaram alleges that access to medical care for detainees had declined since a previous 2014 investigation by the international humanitarian organisation MSF and the commission.
She says there is evidence of “gross medical negligence” at Lindela, including shortages of treatment for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When medication was available, people were often forced to pay for it.
There are indications that conditions in the centre were rife for the spread of HIV because of the lack of condoms. She explains there is also evidence that the centre suffers from poor ventilation, which has been known to increase the risk of TB transmission in detention settings.
Currently, the national health department provides free HIV and TB treatment to people regardless of their immigration status, including prisoners.
She also alleges there is evidence of seven suspicious deaths. In five of the seven deaths, people had allegedly consulted the clinic multiple times only to be given headache tablets or vitamins as their conditions deteriorated.
Ekambaram alleges that Lindela detainees were beaten with pipes and shot at close range with rubber bullets in April after scuffles broke out between prisoners.
Private security company Bosasa is in charge of the centre. Bosasa Executive director Papa Leshabane says the company’s contract with home affairs precludes it from commenting on conditions at Lindela. Home affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola has denied the allegations.
He says detainees were instead peacefully removed after they attempted to assault officials. Mokgola says they had the “intention to riot”.
Ekambaram explains: “The extent of human rights violations we’re seeing at Lindela is worrying. We are concerned that the border centres will be run in a similarly undemocratic way.”
Mokgola maintains that Lindela’s healthcare services meet United Nations standards and are “constantly improving”.
Calls to stop the creation of centres have gone unheard
Civil society organisations have repeatedly called for the planned border camps to be axed in submissions on both the green and white papers.
ACMS research chair on migration Loren Landau has accused home affairs of failing to hold broad consultations on proposed changes to refugee policies.
“The discussions are often announced a few days in advance and only a few people are informed.”
Landau and others say changes to refugee policies put forward in home affairs’ green and white papers were implemented long before the white paper’s approval last week.
Recent amendments to the Refugee Act have, for instance, already curtailed refugees’ right to work and granted home affairs increased power to open and close inland refugee receptions.
Reception offices in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town are already closed, although a court judgment may force home affairs to reopen the Eastern Cape centre. Ekambaram says this has contributed to overcrowding at Lindela.
“People do not get the opportunity to declare their situation. By the time they cross the borders they are arrested and sent to Lindela,” she explains.
Dadoo says that improving existing refugee reception offices would be less expensive than building border camps — and could create jobs.
Mokgola disagrees, saying that processing failed asylum seekers at the border will be cheaper and could help curb abuse of the system by economic migrants posing as asylum seekers.
But new rules are unlikely to stem immigration, says Landau: “The number of people coming into the country will not change, but more people will be pushed underground without documents.”
Who’s watching who?
Changes to refugee regulations could also put South Africa in violation of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, under which South Africa committed to a policy of nonencampment, Dadoo warns.
Mokgola argues there is a distinction between the temporary centres the department will implement and permanent detention camps.
He says government and civil society organisations will also be allowed to monitor processing centres. “We will allow all relevant stakeholders and partners such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], the South African Human Rights Commission and nongovernment organisations to ensure there is proper monitoring and compliance.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the UNHCR’s Southern Africa office, Markku Aikomus, says it may not have the budget to support centres.
The national health department has also confirmed that clinics in border centres will be monitored just as public clinics and hospitals are, says spokesperson Popo Maja. HIV, TB and STI services will be in line with national policies.
Meanwhile, Home affairs has already approached some organisations, such as international organisation the Jesuit Refugee Service, to possibly provide healthcare in centres. South Africa director Johan Viljoen says the Jesuit Refugee Service’s involvement will depend on whether the UNHCR agrees to sign on to the system.
According to Mokgola, South Africa’s roll-out of detention centres will learn not only from experiences in Lindela but also in countries such as Australia and Canada, which have established processing centres.
These are contexts, Landau says, that have little in common with South Africa. “The general ethos here is not about protection of human rights. It is about ensuring that very few people come into South Africa.”