Cape Town – Home Affairs had made improving South Africa’s international migration policy a priority, Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize said on Wednesday. Cabinet approved the white paper on international migration in March, she said during her department’s budget vote debate in Parliament. Briefing reporters earlier, she said the white paper replaced a 1999 version which did not address globalisation, migration, and priorities set out in the “National Development Plan, Vision 2030”. The new paper was intended to provide a policy framework for amending immigration and refugee legislation, to better align these with goals of using migration for development. It would guide managing labour from the SADC region.
“Reviewing and updating immigration policy is critical because it guides how we manage entry, sojourn and departure from the country, to better interact with the rest of the world, in the interests of the nation, its security, and prosperity,” she said. Mkhize was pleased that the Border Management Authority Bill had gone through the parliamentary process. Last week, most opposition parties scuppered the passing of this bill when they staged a walkout. The ANC did not have enough MPs in the National Assembly to form a quorum.
6 million smart cards
DA MP Haniff Hoosen praised the department for the rollout of six million smart ID cards in four years and the quick turnaround times for passport applications. However, South Africa’s immigration system was broken. Many people entered South Africa legally, but many did not, he said. “Most businesses respect our laws and pay their workers a proper wage, but they are also forced to watch others exploit these rules as they pay undocumented immigrants low wages.”
Home affairs could not say how many millions of undocumented immigrants were in the country. An immigration system that was fair, effective and helped grow the economy and create jobs was needed. “You no longer need to jump a fence, there is no fence,” he said. Mkhize’s deputy, Fatima Chohan, dedicated her speech to Palestinian prisoners who were on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in protest against the “cruel and unjust occupation” of Palestine. “Today there are more refugees globally than any time in history, sad to say,” she said.
ANC MP Nokhaya Mnisi said not everyone coming through South Africa’s border had honourable intentions. “Like the Guptas!” yelled an MP in the opposition benches. Mnisi said 95% of those claiming asylum in South Africa were not genuine asylum seekers. “South Africa must be able to refuse asylum to asylum seekers who traversed safe countries,” she said, adding that this was within the United Nations’ rules.