Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, says the recently published White Paper On Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee protection sets out to overhaul the country’s migration system.
The white paper process was approved by Cabinet on the first of November and it seeks to provide a framework to guide the granting of residency and citizenship to foreign nationals, as well as the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.
The drafting of the white paper, which Motsoaledi has dubbed a ‘painstaking exercise’, started four years ago following public pressure for effective policy measures and legislative interventions to deal with migration in South Africa.
Motsoaledi says the current legislation pieces dealing with citizenship, immigration and refugees are not in harmony with each other.
Asylum seekers and refugees were not recognised in South Africa until 1993.
The country only administered its refugee policy on an ad hoc basis, granting refugee mostly to white nationals from Zimbabwe, Portugal and Mozambique.
Motsoaledi says the white paper proposes that government reviews or withdraws from the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, with a view to accede to them with reservations like other countries.
The minister says South Africa does not have the resources to grant the socio economic rights envisaged in the 1951 convention.
Motsoaledi detailed how the country’s Citizenship Act provides for three main forms of citizenship, namely, citizenship by birth, citizenship by descent and citizenship by naturalisation.
“The Citizenship Act and Births and Deaths Registration Act must be repealed entirely and be included in the single legislation dealing with citizenship, immigration and refugee protection.”
He added that a proper register that must be tabled in Parliament annually of all persons granted citizenship should be kept.
The Department of Home Affairs says it cannot account for all the illegal immigrants in the country.
Minister Motsoaledi says, however, Immigration Services deport between 15 000 – 20 000 illegal foreigners every year at a huge cost.
The Minister believes that the establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA) should significantly reduce the risk of foreigners entering the country illegally.
He says the BMA act must be reviewed to align it with Immigration and Citizenship new policy framework.
“The policy framework must provide for the establishment of the Advisory Board which comprise representatives of the Departments of Trade, Industry and Competition, Labour and Employment, Tourism, South African Police Service, South African Revenue Service, Education, International Relations & Cooperation, Defence & Military Veterans and Director- General of the DHA.”
The public has until the 19th of January to submit their views on the white paper.
Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza