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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

SA begins overhaul of immigration laws

South Africa debates leaving international refugee protocols and revamping immigration laws, sparking concerns about electoral motivations.

In grappling with and attempting to resolve its immigration crisis, South Africa may pull out of the international protocols on refugees and repeal existing legislation as it prepares to overhaul the entire immigration set-up.

This as observers expressed concern that the ANC government only acted on the immigration issue as an election gimmick for the upcoming 2024 poll.

Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza said the overhaul process was underway.

He said Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had been ventilating the issue on various platforms, including during his department’s Budget Vote Speech in May.

Qoza said Motsoaledi earlier took the matter to the ANC Nasrec conference where it was endorsed for implementation.

Currently, SA is being inundated by illegal immigrants.

Notorious for its porous borders, the country is also faced with illegal marriages where foreigners marry local women without their knowledge or dupe their female employees into marrying them so they could qualify for citizenship.

On Sunday, 67 Pakistani nationals tried to enter SA through OR Tambo International Airport without being able to explain their destination, which implied they planned to disappear once inside the country.

Motsoaledi said the group, the largest yet encountered in a single instance, were deported at their own cost.

“Essentially, these people wanted to come to South Africa but were unable to explain where they were going, and for what reason,” he said.

The Pakistanis took a cue from a previous group of 30 Afghanistan citizens who entered SA early this year, exploiting a loophole in the refugee policy. The international protocol of which SA is a signatory, allowed migrants fleeing prosecution back home to be granted temporary visas.

“We are worried by this new trend, and we have noticed that the newly acquired e-Visa system, which is meant to facilitate easier entry by tourists, is being abused by some nationals. We will never allow this,” Motsoaledi said.

The Afghan refugees, rumoured to be collaborators and informers that were used against the Taliban during the 20-year US military occupation of the country, were allowed to stay temporarily in SA following a high court ruling in their favour.

But the period of their stay has since lapsed and it’s unknown what happened to the refugees, who were assisted by a US NGO to enter the country.

Motsoaledi is believed to have told his ANC comrades that home affairs was finalising a white paper which would repeal the Citizenship Act of 1995, the Refugee Act of 1998 and the Immigration Act 13 of 2002.

It was also proposed that SA withdraws from the UN convention on refugees passed in 1951, together with the UN protocol of 1967 which SA ratified in 1996 – in line with last year’s ANC resolution at Nasrec.