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South Africa tightens screws


THE fate of millions of Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa hangs in the balance following the neigbouring country’s decision to craft regulations to control the influx of immigrants.


South Africa’s Home Affairs minister Naledi Pandor on Monday said the country’s immigration regime needed a complete “rethink”.
Impending regulations will in the interim “address some inefficiency and fill some gaps”, she said.

In the immediate term, Pandor says she will make recommendations to the Cabinet on how to proceed with the management of Zimbabweans, who received a special dispensation two years ago to allow them to become documented work-seekers.

This expires at the end of this year and a decision will be made before the election, she says. South Africa will hold its elections in May.

What the regulations do deal with is tightening up on abuses — such as marriages of convenience — and making it riskier to break visa conditions.

They also make changes to the regime for allowing in skilled people — which has sparked a great deal of commentary among immigration attorneys.

Pandor says: “The intention is to ease the access. We wouldn’t want to have people the country needs being unable to come here. Those people should be able to get visas more easily.”

More than three million Zimbabweans are believed to be in South Africa.

The recent move would prove disastrous to many Zimbabweans who flooded the South African job market as they fled rising unemployment and the economic meltdown back home.

There are fears that Zimbabweans who benefited were abusing the asylum system.

“People come in, they use the asylum-seeking provisions and they stay and work in low-skilled jobs,” Pandor said.

“Migration needs to be managed. Some economic migrants can work here, but not all.”

Pandor said she preferred bilateral treaties which specified the number of economic migrants to be accommodated under a new Sadc work-seeker permit.

However, she said her country would consider flexible work permits for skilled personnel when there is justification that
such services need to be outsourced.

Last month, South Africa announced far reaching changes on its immigration laws that would come into effect on April 1.

The laws would mostly affect foreign nationals wanting to work, study, run businesses or stay with their relatives in the country.

Both Foreign Affairs deputy minister Christopher Mutsvangwa and permanent secretary Joey Bimha could not be reached for comment yesterday.

— Additional reporting by BDLive

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