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‘Help shape policy on immigrants’ - Motsoaledi

Laws need revamp, says Motsoaledi

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi says many foreign nationals aspire to live in SA, even if it means staying illegally.
Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi says many foreign nationals aspire to live in SA, even if it means staying illegally.
Image: Jaco Marais

The department of home affairs wants your input to guide how government deals with foreign nationals especially when granting residency and citizenship in SA. 

The department recently gazzetted a White Paper to guide the granting of residency and citizenship rights to foreign nationals, as well as  to protect refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, during a media briefing on Sunday in Pretoria, said the White Paper was gazzetted on Friday and that a complete overhaul of the immigration laws was urgently needed.

“There have been consistent loud voices calling for effective policy measures and legislative interventions dealing with migration in SA. These voices grew louder as violent clashes between foreign nationals and citizens reared their ugly heads. Many groups for and against migration are gaining momentum.

“SA has different pieces of legislation dealing with citizenship, immigration and refugee protection, namely the Citizenship Act, Immigration Act and Refugees Act as amended. In fact, the South African Citizenship Act is a relic of the colonial era and a replica of the 1949 Citizenship Act under the Union of South Africa. In practice, these pieces of legislation are not in harmony with each other. Piecemeal amendments were made without any policy framework whatsoever,” said Motsoaledi.

The White Paper proposes that Section 4 (3) of the Citizenship Act be reviewed, together with other sections, including those relating to citizenship by naturalisation.

“The Citizenship Act and Births and Deaths Regulation Act must be repealed in their entirely and be included in the single legislation dealing with citizenship, immigration and refugees protection. They will remove contradictions, and a loophole in the paths towards citizenship is now the case with three pieces of legislation,” he said.

On immigration, the minister said the White Paper proposed that new legislation should be introduced to strengthen the powers of immigration officers and the inspectorate.

“SA is a great place to live in and many people in the world aspire to live, work or be citizens of SA,  as a result, many foreign nationals come to SA and stay in the country illegally.

“The new policy must provide that members of the anti-corruption unit should be seconded from the SAPS. The rationale is that members of SAPS enjoy wide statutory powers, including search and arrest without warrant,” he said.

The minister said that new policy interventions  are required to establish the immigration division whose members are duly qualified to deal with the granting of visas.  He said the current system is unworkable and staff members are overworked.

On refugees, Motsoaledi said that the refugee protection and immigration legislation must provide for reservation and excerptions as contained in the 1951 UN convention and 1967 UN protocols.

The minister said SA would temporarily withdraw from the UN in order to have time to draft the new legislation.

“The White Paper proposes that the government of the Republic of South Africa must review and/or withdraw from the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol with a view to accede to them with reservation like other countries. The UN articles states that though we are allowed to make reservations, South Africa did not do so in 1967 – perhaps because we didn’t understand these things or we lacked experience,” he said.  

He urged members of the public to participate to help reshape the country’s laws.

“An explanatory memorandum will accompany the distribution of the White Paper to the public at large. I call upon all citizens and stakeholders to make comments to enrich the White Paper. Public participation is a principle that underpins the constitution,” he said.

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