SA Seeks to Regularise Zimbabwean refugees and informal immigrants
8 August 2010
Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa have been given a December 31 deadline to obtain proper documents and regularise their stay in South Africa. In a bilateral agreement, Zimbabwe is sending dozens of officers from the Registrar General’s Office to South Africa to facilitate the issuance of passports to undocumented Zimbabweans. Passport fees have been slashed to just US$40 to make a passport more affordable to applicants.
Zimbabwean Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone said they are sending the teams to process passport applications, at the direct invitation of their South African counterpart. SA Home Affairs Minister Dlamini-Zuma said, “People must have proper official documents” She was referring to the single-page ‘emergency documents’ that had been issued by Zimbabwe authorities during the last year. At a press conference Minister Dlamini-Zuma also stressed to journalists that South Africa had no sinister motives behind the move. Any country, she pointed out, has the right and the duty to regularize its immigrants and foreign visitors.
As part of efforts to smooth the process, standard Zim passport fees were slashed from US$140 down to just $40, and nationals can apply at their nearest embassy or consulate. It was not clear if extra outlets were to be set up in South Africa, or if the millions of Zimbabweans in the country were all expected to travel to Pretoria and apply at the Zimbabwean embassy there.
Minister Mohadi said Zimbabweans living in South Africa could also travel back home to make passport applications.
“Those who choose not to regularise their travel documents in time will be deported and will have no one to blame,” Minister Mohadi said.
In April 2009, South Africa had granted a special 12-month dispensation to Zimbabweans – in cases allowing them to take up jobs in health care and education sectors without work permits. All removals of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants were also frozen until April 2010. This special dispensation for Zimbabweans had been extended to December 2010 after discussions with the Zimbabwe government: Dlamini-Zuma said, “…they (Zimbabwean nationals) must all come out, say who they are, what they are doing and we can regularise their stay. All foreigners (not just Zimbabweans) in South Africa must have their stay regularised.”
She also said that her department would even arrange a special amnesty for Zimbabweans who had obtained fraudulent permits or asylum documents. Once the 31 December deadline is up however, anyone found with fraudulent documents will be arrested – and presumably, deported.
The CIA Factbook notes that “Young Zimbabwean men and boys are trafficked to South Africa for farm work, often laboring for months in South Africa without pay before “employers” have them arrested and deported as illegal immigrants.”
The UN HCR reports that Zimbabweans have the highest numbers of official asylum-seekers in the world. In 2009 alone, 158 000 Zimbabweans applied for asylum, 90% of these in South Africa.
In a similar move last month in the UK, the British Home Office announced it was to launch a new bid to deport failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers in October, when a new country guidance case is heard before the Asylum and Immigration Tribuna. New guidelines regarding political asylum applicants will seek to distinguish between people who are genuinely at risk and those who are ‘chancers’ applying for asylum in the hope of immigrating.