Cape Town – A reader shares how a family trip to the UK ended in devastation at Cape Town International airport, as they decided to forego the trip rather than be declared an undesirable by the new immigration law upon returning to SA.
“On April 11, 2014 (well before the required 30 day period) I applied at DHA to have my Spousal visa renewed – it expired on May 17, 2014. I was given a receipt and told if I needed to travel before my visa was ready I would be fined at Immigration on departure but to pay the fine and then bring the receipt to them for reimbursement.
Before booking a London trip (to visit my sister) I went again to DHA (on May 16, 2014) and they gave me the same information. Feeling sure I could travel as the Supervisor at DHA CT said (on May 16) ‘of course you can travel it’s not your fault we take months and months to issue your renewal’ (my last visa took 7 months to come).
On Thursday June 19, my 3 South African children and I went to board our flight to London. The children, who have South African Passports went through immigration and when it came to me they told me the law had changed on May 24, 2014 and if I left the country I would be deemed an ‘undesirable’ and be refused entry to SA for 12 months. So after a heart wrenching hour, delays to the BA flight as they had to offload our bags and 3 devastated kids we came back home.
My husband went to DHA CT the next day (Friday June 20) and they gave him the same information they had given me on both occasions – this time in writing – I have attached it. NO mention of the ‘undesirable’ or being barred from entering for 12 months on this document.
The people at the airport and BA said this happens at least 6 times a day since May 24. I witnessed another woman on our flight that left the country after signing a document that was also offered to me that stated I knew what I was declaring myself an “undesirable” if I left and asking for a review. I was informed by the Home Affairs Officer that a review would not even be looked at in the 10 days I was out of the country.
The people at the airport also told us that people had left the country before May 24, 2014 under the below process and returned after May 24 have been refused entry as the law changed while they were away and they are now considered ‘undesirables’.
I was one of the lucky ones as the immigration officer gave me the option of not traveling do did not stamp my passport.”