The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has openly admitted to not having the legal capacity and resources to enforce the country’s immigration laws and ultimately avoid the issues which have resulted in the ongoing sit-ins at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in Tshwane and Cape Town.
This was revealed in the DHA’s affidavit submitted to the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday following an application by the Brooklyn and Eastern Areas Citizens’ Association and the Waterkloof Homeowners Association.
The incapacity of the DHA to deal with this issue has resulted in the UNHCR and relevant metropolitan municipalities being expected to do Home Affairs’ job. The DHA cannot do this alone but have the responsibility to lead the process. The DA, therefore, calls on the DHA to immediately strengthen their capacity by implementing a far more efficient asylum seeker system that works to ensure that refugees are able to live in South Africa legally and deal with corruption in the immigration system decisively. Furthermore, the DHA must ensure that asylum seekers are timeously documented and that refugees are differentiated from economic migrants. By doing this, the DHA would help prevent African foreign nationals from being targeted as a group by threats of violence from those who accuse them of being illegal immigrants.
It is unfortunate that the current xenophobic crisis we face is compounded by the fact that Home Affairs does not have the capacity to deal with the pressing challenge of securing our borders. There is no evidence that the costly Border Management Agency will solve issues of corruption and lack of urgency in protecting our borders. This ultimately damages social cohesion between South African citizens and foreign nationals.
The Mayor of Tshwane, Stevens Mokgalapa, has reiterated these calls through the City of Tshwane, by writing to Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, and Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, to request the initiation of the process of collating information about undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in efforts to arrest those participating in unlawful activities and to document or deport those who are undocumented.
The responsibility of managing South Africa’s borders, registering asylum seekers and relocation of undocumented immigrants remains under the purview of the DHA and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco). This is a shared responsibility with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that law and order is maintained. Without the relevant Departments and Cabinet Ministers’ commitment to the above project, xenophobia will continue to be a threat in a South Africa where South African citizens feel that undocumented immigrants have unfair access to opportunities.