The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is currently developing a new White Paper on International Migration to Cabinet for approval on 31 March 2017.

IBN wishes to report the meeting about the update regarding DHA’s progress to the South African National Assembly Committee on 14 February 2017 which took place in Cape Town, South Africa.

Or according to the words Mr Mkuseli Apleni Director General at the DHA, used:

The aim of the presentation was twofold, on the one hand keeping the Committee in the loop regarding the development of the preliminary green paper as an interim stage of the white paper and on the other hand seeking input from the Committee for its draft.

Development on new White Paper

Apleni pointed out that the past and existing policy is based on a White Paper on International Migration of 1999, which was put into practice through the Immigration Act No. 13 of 2002 and partly implemented. These Acts were amended by the DHA frequently in the past to close glaring gaps in legislation but are still in force, despite significant changes in the country, region and world.

International Migration Policy

Apleni indicated that the DHA was under pressure to finish a comprehensive review of its international migration policy. This topic was declared one of the top priorities by the current Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, during his term of office.

According to Mr Apleni, South Africa hasn’t found a way to benefit from international migration. There is a lack of a comprehensive and whole-of-government and society approach. The DHA is recognized as the only department responsible for the management of migration and has been historically regarded as performing repetitive administrative tasks in a low-value, low security environment. The existing approach towards policy is too static and rather based on compliance than on managing international migration strategically to achieve national goals. To achieve these goals, the country needs a more risk-based attitude plus more budgetary effort must be made to evaluate these risks and mitigate them adequately.

Various points must be taken into consideration

Mr Apleni identified various points which must to be taken into consideration while finding new ways to develop an innovative policy:

South Africa’s high attraction to tourists from all over the world, its position as a platform for investment into Africa as well as for companies as an African hub for their expansion into Africa and other continents. African countries continuously liberalised their immigration regulations in line with the African Union 2063 Vision. All in all, South Africa is ought to adopt a more open approach to skilled immigration to lure high-skilled migrants into its economy, which was already argued by the National Development Plan (NDP).

In contrast to that, the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), in person of Mr Mohammed Hoosen welcomed the Green Paper due to its introduction of urgently needed modifications in the international migration policy.

He applauded the fact that the DHA was willing to support the free movement of people of the SADC. South Africa was unable to react on the challenges arising out of international migration and overall, the Green Paper was pointing in the right direction, according to Mr Hoosen.

Concerns were raised

However he raised one part of concern that there was a shift in the granting of permanent residence permits and the DHA apparently adopted a delaying tactic. He questioned if this would be changed by the White Paper coming into force and what would happen to all applications already submitted?

Another member of the DA, Mr Figlan, remarked that there were 800 immigration inspectors in the whole country and this number was inadequate to deal with the problem of illegal foreigners.

Mr Figlan’s remark showed again that the management of asylum seekers and refugees remained a concern through all parties and especially the high volumes of migrants are still an issue. In 2014, 70 010 asylum applications were registered, compared to 2015 with a number of 71914 applicants. Also this problem should be handled by introducing a mechanism of providing effective and efficient status determination and protection services to genuine asylum seekers and refugees while limiting the abuse of the system.

The new policy to introduce would support the vision of an Africa where its citizens could more freely move above national borders, where intra-Africa trade was promoted and the African continent is better integrated.

Main Targets of the Agenda 2063

The main targets of the Agenda 2063 programme of the African Union, which was already mentioned above and taken up by Mr Donald Gumede (ANC) who declared his pleasure to see that the Green Paper was talking about the African Union Agenda 2063 as well as the protocol of the Southern African Development Community.

In Mr Gumede’s opinion, people should stop from raising arguments on basis of emotions but use sound legal and logical arguments.

South Africa, represented by the DHA, finally realised that the cost of a lack of investment in managing global immigration was far higher than the cost of building the necessary capacity to be competitive on an international level. And it identified the capacity of the state to lead and to coordinate across the local, provincial and national government as the main indicator to handle international migration.

International migration

Taking all these points into consideration, the DHA concluded South Africans need to perceive international migration as a chance for their own development and the whole country.

But old fears didn’t disappear of the radar: South Africa is willing to open its doors to welcome foreign nationals but these doors could not be opened widely on the costs of national security which has still to be taken seriously.

The presentation of the DHA can be found following this link.

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by Andreas Krensel