The Star, 21 July 2008

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Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is expected to deport a group of foreign migrants today who have refused to register, and whom she believes are the "ringleaders" behind the unrest and resistance at the Glenanda "temporary shelter" in Joburg. The Democratic Republic of Congo's envoy to South Africa, was told on Friday to be on standby to facilitate travel documents for the group, who are mostly from that country. "I told him we are hitting problems with some of these people and today we should expect that we approach him, and we would like him to provide us with documentation in the event that we are still hitting problems with some of his people, and he has agreed," Mapisa-Nqakula said. "It is not the SA government's intention to deport a huge group of people, but we want to identify the ring leaders and deport them." In an interview with Independent Newspapers, the minister stressed she would remain firm on her decision to deport foreign migrants who were victims of xenophobic attacks, but had refused to register, as requested by her department. The fact that the government had shown compassion after the attacks did not mean foreign migrants who were in the country illegally, and refused to register, could undermine its efforts "to build in the rule of law in the process". Mapisa-Nqakula said she could not understand why undocumented migrants, who had violated the country's laws by entering illegally, would refuse to co-operate. She said she believed some might not want their fingerprints taken, as they may have been involved in "mischief". "If you do not want to be registered then you should not receive assistance. You can't expect the government of the republic and relief agencies to continue to provide shelter, food and to clothe you, and protect you as well." On "mediation efforts" by the Gauteng provincial government announced at the weekend, Mapisa-Nqakula said there had been no consultation with her department. "I don't know how that arose. It can never be mediation between Home Affairs and migrants who are clearly breaking the law." The Gauteng provincial government was still using the Home Affairs deadline of today as the last chance to register, or face being kicked out of the shelter and possible deportation, spokesperson Thabo Masebe said. Each foreigner living in temporary shelters was obliged to have his or her photograph and fingerprints taken, and was then issued with a driver's licence-sized card. The department insists the requirement is only aimed at keeping a record of those living in shelters, as well as for planning, and to protect undocumented people from being detained and deported. Undocumented migrants living illegally in South Africa will have that card endorsed at the back, with a Section 31 (2) (b) exemption permit. This would entitle them to reside in South Africa and access services for six months, before having to return to their country of origin. But foreign nationals with the necessary documents to live and work in South Africa, and whose documents may have been lost in the xenophobic attacks, are concerned registration will override this status, and they too will have to return home after six months. While registration has proceeded smoothly at most temporary shelters, the one at Rifle Range in Glenanda, where about 2 000 foreign nationals, mostly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi are housed, has been beset with trouble, and a widespread refusal to register. Only about 500 of the 2 000 foreign migrants had registered by Friday. Clashes last Thursday at Glenanda, where about 800 Congolese refused to register, resulted in the arrest of seven women and three men, with four children detained in the cells with their mothers. The group are accused of intimidation. It is understood about 200 people are also refusing to register at the Akasia settlement, north of Pretoria, where mostly Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans are housed.