Home Affairs calls for tighter immigration laws

Johannesburg – Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has called for the tightening up of South Africa’s immigration laws and suggested a revised Refugee Act to beef up the country’s security.

Speaking at a New Age/SABC business briefing on Friday, Dlamini Zuma said there were loopholes in South Africa’s immigration and refugee laws leading to abuse of the system.

She revealed that in 2007, South Africa had more asylum seekers than all the 27 European Union countries combined, but only 5% actually qualified for asylum.

“We need to do a new Refugee Act. We will do so not by changing our international obligations but making sure that our laws and international obligations are not abused, we need to tighten up,” Dlamini Zuma said.

Illegitimate refugee seekers were crowding the system, which was meant to help those who are vulnerable.

“What we will be doing is to look at the process itself as to who comes into South Africa as it should be open to people coming in and going out and they must be legal, so that we are efficient.”

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The minister hinted at the idea of opening new offices closer to the border.

She also said the department was now developing new systems to minimise the potential security risks largely encouraged by an apparent lack of coordination between different Home Affairs units.

“We just do not speak to each other and then you find out that people are taking advantage of these loopholes.

“For instance, you find that someone comes into South Africa and a week later he or she is getting married and a month later they register as late registration of birth and we are unable to pick that up because our systems don’t talk to each other, so we want to change that,” said Dlamini Zuma.

However, she acknowledged that the department faced a challenge of capacity with officials being overwhelmed by the number of applicants who apply for several documentation.

Meanwhile, Dlamini Zuma confirmed that all South Africans who turn 16 by the end of the year will be able to get the new smartcard IDs. By 2013, the department would start issuing the smartcards to all first-time applicants and later recall the green identity books to replace them with smartcards. – SAnews.gov.za