No warm welcome from Home Affairs at Beit Bridge

have a Home Affairs department that is corrupt,’ declared President Cyril Ramaphosa in early October – while Barbara Dale-Jones was experiencing exactly that while travelling to Zimbabwe. As Ramaphosa visited the department’s head office in Pretoria, engaging staff and senior management on strategies to speed up visas and make it easier for visitors to enter the country, hundreds of Zimbabweans and South Africans experienced only frustration, corruption and prejudice at the hands of Home Affairs officials.
Earlier this month, I travelled through the Beit Bridge border post from South Africa to Zimbabwe. The exercise took five hours in heat of more than 45 degrees Celsius. It was a horror and one that gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I was seeing.
At first, the behaviour of the South African Home Affairs officials seemed like incompetence and laziness. They did not seem to have a properly functioning system in place. By the time I had crossed the bridge into Zimbabwe, I had concluded that the South African border officials at Beit Bridge are much worse than incompetent; they preside over a corrupt, xenophobic system that deliberately prejudices poor, black Zimbabweans.
If you’re not used to the border procedures at Beit Bridge, it’s difficult to fathom what exactly to do. There are no clear instructions anywhere. There is no help desk. It’s difficult to get anyone to answer a query. I asked a woman in a Home Affairs uniform for help and she said she was no longer on duty.
No one in uniform smiled. Some officials seemed to be working, but others leaned back in their chairs, eyes drooping closed in the heat of the afternoon. Some ate lunch at their desks.
Feeding off the uncertainty of those, like me, who were new to the procedure were the touts. The touts lean into you, persistently and insistently offering you the solution of quick passage, for a fee. And the fees, to be paid in US dollars, can take you to the top of the queue.
The touts don’t let up easily. Some of them seem to be scam artists, but some are clearly able to work the system and can accelerate someone’s progress to the front of the queue. It’s hard to see that when you’re still waiting after many hours and the queue is not moving.
People are constantly arriving. Queues form and dissolve. There are queues for immigration, emigration, work permits, car permits. The queues are so long they coil around the customs buildings. People queueing mainly look down and stay quiet and calm, but a long, snaking line of hundreds of patiently waiting people will suddenly agitate when the last 50 or so in line get taken to a newly opened booth, or to another building. At one point I saw an official collect the passports of about 100 people and disappear with these documents, presumably to expedite their owners’ passage.
Mobile homes are set up outside the customs building; some people queue there. A line there for those leaving the country winds around a line for those returning. Some people sit or lie down, some stand in groups and talk. The lines are more porous than the border post everyone is trying to cross. What’s important is to stay close to the person in front of you, or else you’ll lose your place.
I spoke to the young, black Zimbabwean woman queueing in front of me. She had travelled from Bulawayo the previous afternoon in order to shop in Musina. She was pulling a bulky suitcase on wheels. On her back was strapped a cooler bag, which she said was full of fresh milk. Her hands carried plastic bags with groceries.
She explained that this is a monthly excursion for her as it’s cheaper to shop in South Africa, and there is more variety in the South African shops. Each month she takes a bus from Bulawayo to the border and then goes into South Africa. When her shopping is done the next day she crosses back over the border, walks over the bridge to the Zimbabwean side, and hitches a lift home on a truck.
Is it safe? I asked. She shrugged and said she had no option. She hoped to be home by midnight. As we edged forward, she and the woman behind us explained that this queue was not unusual. It’s always like this, they said, and they agreed that the difficulties and delays are always on the South African side of the border post. Both said they believe South African Home Affairs officials enjoy seeing Zimbabweans suffer in this way. No mercy is shown to anyone. A pregnant woman will be told she should not be there. The elderly or ill are asked what they are doing at the border post. They hate us, the women said.
They said people dare not complain or stand up for someone; you will be further delayed, possibly even refused passage. So, they have concluded, it is best they keep their eyes down and do as they’re told – which is what they did that day in the unremitting heat. People around me were in astoundingly good spirits in spite of the temperature. They kept offering me hope. They reassured me that it would be much quicker and nicer on the Zimbabwean side.
They said the queue would move once the shift changed at two o’clock. At about half-past two, the queue did indeed move, and with pace. The long backlog suddenly dissolved and we were all through. We passed each other again on the Zimbabwean side, which was indeed much quicker and friendlier, and they smiled as if to say they had told me so.
Beit Bridge is evidently straining under the pressure of vast numbers of migrants coming through the border. Instead of having an efficient system in place – with clear procedures and rules that can cope with these challenges – the South African Department of Home Affairs is running a system that is not only uncaring but also corrupt, judging by the way touts are able to work the system.
While I waited in the hot sun, I looked at the Home Affairs Twitter feed. They had retweeted the Presidency (see @PresidencyZA) as President Ramaphosa visited the department head office in Tshwane. The Presidency said: “Our Immigration Services are the first point of contact through which people from around the world experience the spirit and personality of our nation. This is where people are exposed for the first time to ubuntu and the warmth of our hospitality.”
What I saw was about as far from ubuntu or warm hospitality as I could imagine and I felt ashamed to think that this is how we treat people from our northern neighbour.
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Emigration guide: from Australia to Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA

Enough, already — hands up who has Brexit fatigue. The political purgatory as Britain attempts to leave the European Union is utterly exhausting. So if you want to get on with your life and escape the entire continent, where do you go?
So sick of Brexit that you want to flee Europe altogether? You’re not alone: more and more Britons are emigrating even further afield.
Some 4.275m UK-born people live abroad, according to hot-off-the-press statistics from the United Nations. The top destination is Australia, with more than 1.262m Brits — up from 1.206m in 2015, the year before the EU referendum. Second is the US, with 716,260 people originally from our shores. Also featuring in the top 10 in the UN list are New Zealand (272,436 Brits), South Africa (131,310) and Canada (77,494). All these countries have seen their UK-born populations grow since we elected to part ways with…
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Home Affairs wants to go easier on visa applications – after rejecting 36,000 last year

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has released new statistics outlining the number of people that have been denied a visa to South Africa.
Answering during a recent parliamentary Q&A session, Motsoaledi said that 27,772 visas were denied in 2017 while 36,452 applications were denied in 2018.
Further data provided by Motsoaledi said that the majority of these denied requests came from Nigerian nationals with a total of 13,259 combined rejections for 2017 and 2018.
Zimbabwe had the next highest amount of rejections (7,996), followed by Pakistan (7,477).
It should be noted that this data does not account for the total number of applicants from each country which will have a direct impact on the number of applications that are rejected.
You can find a more detailed breakdown of the countries with the most denied applicants below.
Rank Country 2017 2018 Combined total
1 Nigeria 5 928 7 331 13 259
2 Zimbabwe 2 984 5 012 7 996
3 Pakistan 2 724 4 753 7 477
4 India 2 671 3 726 6 397
5 Bangladesh 1 875 3 340 5 215
6 China 1 874 1 712 3 586
7 Other (asylum/refugees) 851 1 051 1 902
8 Democratic Republic of Congo 721 961 1 682
9 Ghana 770 884 1 654
10 Cameroon 613 696 1 309
Visa access
While Motsoaledi did not specify why these visas were denied, he has indicated that his department is working on a number of changes to South Africa’s visa regime in an effort to make the country more accessible for visitors.
He said that the country is also looking to attract investors and people with skills that are critical to building the economy.
Presenting at the monthly Presidential Working Committee on Monday (7 October), Motsoaledi said that his department has lowered turnaround times for critical work skills visas, which are now issued within four weeks in 88.5% of applications.
By comparison, business and general work visas are issued within eight weeks in 98% of applications.
“In November, the Department of Home Affairs will embark on a pilot scheme for the issuing of e-visas, which applicants will be able to access online, eliminating the need for applicants to visit South African missions abroad.
“The department has also located visa services within the offices of various investment facilitation agencies around the country.
“In addition, visa requirements have been simplified for countries such as China and India, which are key markets for tourism to South Africa,” he said.
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Home Affairs’ ban on asylum seekers getting married is unconstitutional, SCA rules

If you are an asylum seeker whose application for asylum in terms of Section 21 of the Refugee Act has not been finalised, you are still permitted to enter into a marriage. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) affirmed this in a judgment handed down in October.

Background

A case was brought by asylum seeker Emmanuel Ochogwu, whose application for refugee status has been pending with the Refugee Appeal Board for over six years. He is a Christian pastor who fled the religious persecution of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

During the prolonged delay in finalising his application, Ochogwu formed a relationship with Zizipho Nkumanda. The two married in terms of customary law. In 2016, they approached Home Affairs to register their customary marriage in terms of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act and conclude a civil marriage under the Marriage Act. This is a practice commonly adopted by customary law spouses to ensure full legal recognition of their union.

The parties were asked to prove the existence of the customary marriage and provide Ochogwu’s asylum permit for verification. They complied, providing an affidavit from Nkumanda’s father, confirming the conclusion of a customary marriage and Ochogwu’s latest asylum seeker permit.

On Valentine’s Day 14 February 2017, the couple returned to Home Affairs to finalise their marriage. But Home Affairs indicated that a recently published circular from the Deputy Director for Civic Services prohibited the marriages for asylum seekers whose applications for asylum were not finalised.
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Dismayed, the couple approached the Eastern Cape Division High Court for relief.

High Court

The couple argued that the circular was an unconstitutional infringement of their rights to equality and dignity. Also, they argued that the circular infringed international law treaties on the rights of asylum seekers. These international laws, which South Africa has signed and ratified, expressly prohibit the prejudicial conduct of Home Affairs.

Highlighting the unreasonableness of Home Affairs’s conduct, the couple pointed out that the Refugee Appeal Board had been defunct for two years, resulting in Ochogwu waiting for a decision for over five years.

Home Affairs argued that the applicants should wait for a decision by the Refugee Appeal Board. Also, they argued that the applicants marriage was fraudulent to secure residency rights for Ochogwu. But Home Affairs provided no evidence for this.

After considering the arguments, the High Court concluded that the circular infringed the applicants’ rights to equality and was therefore unconstitutional. The court ordered that the parties should be allowed to marry. The respondents appealed.

Supreme Court of Appeal

The SCA considered two main issues. First, the legal status of the Home Affairs circular. Second, whether the ban on marriage for asylum seekers was unconstitutional.

Home Affairs argued that a circular is not a law and therefore the court cannot review it. But the court said that a circular is meant to guide officials in implementing government policy. The SCA noted that a similar argument had been used in the case of Ahmed v Minister of Home Affairs. The Constitutional Court in that case rejected the argument stating that it was not important to decide whether a circular was a law or not. What was important, the Constitutional Court concluded, was whether it was treated as a law by those responsible for implementing it. Put differently, if Home Affairs used the circular to give or deprive people of their rights (as laws do), then the court can review it.

The advocate representing Home Affairs argued that considering the circular as a whole, it did not bar asylum seekers from getting married. The words of the circular, he said, affirmed the right of asylum seekers to marry but only sought to guide marriage officers in concluding marriages and prevent marriages involving undocumented immigrants.

The SCA disagreed. The court took particular note of the sections of the circular that read: “refugees whose asylum application is pending cannot contemplate marriage” and “should there be an inquiry to a refugee or asylum seeker status, the marriage cannot be concluded”. The SCA concluded that these sections clearly deny asylum seekers the right to marry. Also, the court said, an interpretation that denied Ochogwu the right to marry is how the circular was understood by Home Affairs officials.

The SCA said that all interpretations of fundamental rights, such as the right to equality, must acknowledge the constitutional value of dignity. The court found it unacceptable that the wording of the circular was contradictory — the circular affirmed the right of asylum seekers to marry in one sentence, only to deny the right in the next. The court quoted the judgment of Minister of Home Affairs v Watchenuka, where the Constitutional Court stated “human dignity has no nationality”.

The SCA referred to judgments of the Constitutional Court that speak to the importance of marriage as a social institution for the expression of one’s dignity and autonomy – “it offers a social and legal shrine for love and for commitment and for a future shared with another human being”.

Court rebukes Home Affairs

The SCA’s conclusion also included a scathing rebuke of Home Affairs. The court said that judicial precedent required the state to respect the law, to fulfil procedural requirements and to tread respectfully when dealing with rights. The court found Home Affairs had failed dismally to achieve these constitutional imperatives. The court described Home Affairs’s conduct as “inexcusable and deserving of censure”. It said that Home Affairs officials were lucky to not have been called upon to personally pay the costs of litigation.

The court took particular exception to Home Affairs questioning the legitimacy of the couple’s marital relationship without advancing any evidence. A punitive cost order was made as a mark of the court’s displeasure.

www.samigration.com

Home Affairs’ ban on asylum seekers getting married is unconstitutional, SCA rules

If you are an asylum seeker whose application for asylum in terms of Section 21 of the Refugee Act has not been finalised, you are still permitted to enter into a marriage. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) affirmed this in a judgment handed down in October.

Background

A case was brought by asylum seeker Emmanuel Ochogwu, whose application for refugee status has been pending with the Refugee Appeal Board for over six years. He is a Christian pastor who fled the religious persecution of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

During the prolonged delay in finalising his application, Ochogwu formed a relationship with Zizipho Nkumanda. The two married in terms of customary law. In 2016, they approached Home Affairs to register their customary marriage in terms of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act and conclude a civil marriage under the Marriage Act. This is a practice commonly adopted by customary law spouses to ensure full legal recognition of their union.

The parties were asked to prove the existence of the customary marriage and provide Ochogwu’s asylum permit for verification. They complied, providing an affidavit from Nkumanda’s father, confirming the conclusion of a customary marriage and Ochogwu’s latest asylum seeker permit.

On Valentine’s Day 14 February 2017, the couple returned to Home Affairs to finalise their marriage. But Home Affairs indicated that a recently published circular from the Deputy Director for Civic Services prohibited the marriages for asylum seekers whose applications for asylum were not finalised.
ADVERTISING

Dismayed, the couple approached the Eastern Cape Division High Court for relief.

High Court

The couple argued that the circular was an unconstitutional infringement of their rights to equality and dignity. Also, they argued that the circular infringed international law treaties on the rights of asylum seekers. These international laws, which South Africa has signed and ratified, expressly prohibit the prejudicial conduct of Home Affairs.

Highlighting the unreasonableness of Home Affairs’s conduct, the couple pointed out that the Refugee Appeal Board had been defunct for two years, resulting in Ochogwu waiting for a decision for over five years.

Home Affairs argued that the applicants should wait for a decision by the Refugee Appeal Board. Also, they argued that the applicants marriage was fraudulent to secure residency rights for Ochogwu. But Home Affairs provided no evidence for this.

After considering the arguments, the High Court concluded that the circular infringed the applicants’ rights to equality and was therefore unconstitutional. The court ordered that the parties should be allowed to marry. The respondents appealed.

Supreme Court of Appeal

The SCA considered two main issues. First, the legal status of the Home Affairs circular. Second, whether the ban on marriage for asylum seekers was unconstitutional.

Home Affairs argued that a circular is not a law and therefore the court cannot review it. But the court said that a circular is meant to guide officials in implementing government policy. The SCA noted that a similar argument had been used in the case of Ahmed v Minister of Home Affairs. The Constitutional Court in that case rejected the argument stating that it was not important to decide whether a circular was a law or not. What was important, the Constitutional Court concluded, was whether it was treated as a law by those responsible for implementing it. Put differently, if Home Affairs used the circular to give or deprive people of their rights (as laws do), then the court can review it.

The advocate representing Home Affairs argued that considering the circular as a whole, it did not bar asylum seekers from getting married. The words of the circular, he said, affirmed the right of asylum seekers to marry but only sought to guide marriage officers in concluding marriages and prevent marriages involving undocumented immigrants.

The SCA disagreed. The court took particular note of the sections of the circular that read: “refugees whose asylum application is pending cannot contemplate marriage” and “should there be an inquiry to a refugee or asylum seeker status, the marriage cannot be concluded”. The SCA concluded that these sections clearly deny asylum seekers the right to marry. Also, the court said, an interpretation that denied Ochogwu the right to marry is how the circular was understood by Home Affairs officials.

The SCA said that all interpretations of fundamental rights, such as the right to equality, must acknowledge the constitutional value of dignity. The court found it unacceptable that the wording of the circular was contradictory — the circular affirmed the right of asylum seekers to marry in one sentence, only to deny the right in the next. The court quoted the judgment of Minister of Home Affairs v Watchenuka, where the Constitutional Court stated “human dignity has no nationality”.

The SCA referred to judgments of the Constitutional Court that speak to the importance of marriage as a social institution for the expression of one’s dignity and autonomy – “it offers a social and legal shrine for love and for commitment and for a future shared with another human being”.

Court rebukes Home Affairs

The SCA’s conclusion also included a scathing rebuke of Home Affairs. The court said that judicial precedent required the state to respect the law, to fulfil procedural requirements and to tread respectfully when dealing with rights. The court found Home Affairs had failed dismally to achieve these constitutional imperatives. The court described Home Affairs’s conduct as “inexcusable and deserving of censure”. It said that Home Affairs officials were lucky to not have been called upon to personally pay the costs of litigation.

The court took particular exception to Home Affairs questioning the legitimacy of the couple’s marital relationship without advancing any evidence. A punitive cost order was made as a mark of the court’s displeasure.

www.samigration.com

High Court Slams Home Affairs for poor and unclear Visa rejection letters

The Department of Home Affairs is usually rejecting visa cases on a regular basis without giving any reason for it. The South African Court handed down an interesting judgement last week, which will hopefully if embraced by home affairs lead to clarity on many of the rejections that don’t make sense or one can see no thought was given to it .
Before the new judgement, there was no need for explanation regards to rejections of visa cases, but due to the new law if there is no reasonable cause for rejection, you are able to take them directly to court without going through the whole procedure in terms of the immigration act.
The Law change summarized below:
• Stated reasons for rejection must be intelligible and informative and provide an explanation for why the decision-maker arrived at the decision. The explanation must be given in a way that will allow the applicant to determine whether the decision was based on an incorrect factual premise or an error of law.
• Merely setting out the conclusion to which the decision-maker came is not sufficient. The decision-maker must set out his understanding of the relevant law, the findings of fact on which his conclusions are based and the reasoning process which led to them, in clear and unambiguous language.
• Where the decision-maker does not furnish any reasons at all, or the reasons furnished are not adequate within the meaning set out above, the decision is not one ‘contemplated’ in terms of the Act and is consequently not a decision in respect of which the affected person is obliged to exercise his/her internal remedies of review or appeal before proceeding to Court for review in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3.
• Essentially, if DHA does not give proper reasons in a rejection, you can take them to court directly without having to go through the appeal procedure in terms of sections and of the Immigration Act.
Contact us if you need clarity or assistance at info@sami.co.za or
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Motsoaledi says children of migrants should be in school

Every child needs to go to school, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has said.
He said when he asked the Department of Basic Education why immigrant children were barred from school, he was told the department was scared of home affairs inspectors.
“That can’t happen in any modern democracy. I told them home affairs inspectors must not visit any schools unless there is a crime committed that needs home affairs. It’s more dangerous to have a child who is not in school.”
“Send them to school … We’ll look at the documentation later.”
He was speaking to GroundUp after briefing a joint meeting of the portfolio committees on Home Affairs and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on Tuesday.
Motsoaledi told GroundUp that the three special permits which were issued to legalise the status of nationals from Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Angolans already living in South Africa, would be renewed.
“The Lesotho permit is expiring in December. I am already in the process of renewing it,” said Motsoaledi. “We can’t stop those special permits if the problems that led to those special permits are not yet resolved.
“Unfortunately the Zimbabwean permit was for four years and the situation never became normal in those four years. We will renew, but we can’t automatically as the department. We have got to discuss with the Cabinet.”
“The issue of migration is not purely a problem of home affairs as the mayor of Johannesburg would like people to believe,” said Motsoaledi. “It talks to many government departments because it talks to economy; it talks to job creation; it talks to inequality; it talks to unemployment – all those issues cannot be resolved by one department which is called home affairs.
“We have accepted long ago that our borders are porous. We have presented to Parliament before that we are going to spruce up the Border Management Authority. We want to bring that forward,” he said.
In 2009, the South African government introduced a Dispensation of Zimbabwean Permit (DZP) to legalise the many Zimbabweans already inside the country because of the political and socio-economic situation there.
In 2014, the DZP was renewed and renamed ZSP (Zimbabwean Special Permit), which expired in December 2017. The ZSP was replaced with the ZEP (Zimbabwe Exemption Permit), which will expire in 2021.
The ZEP entitles the holder to study or conduct employment but does not entitle the holder to the right to apply for permanent residence, irrespective of the period of stay in South Africa.
A similar dispensation was extended to nationals from Lesotho and Angola.
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