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SAPA, July 9, 1997 (Cape Town)
Abuse of illegal migrants by South African employers is rife, a research report by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP), claimed on Wednesday.
SAMP - a multi-institutional regional research network with partners in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Canada - is currently conducting a major three-year research programme on the impact of migration on the South African and regional labour markets.
The report, released through the offices of the Institute for Democracy, claimed that many South African employers hired non-South African workers in preference to locals.
Employers' duplicity in illegal migration posed a serious problem for the regulation and management of migration, but employers were rarely penalised for hiring illegal staff.
The report said the lack of regulation of foreign workers in the temporary employment sector posed a challenge for government, organised labour and non-governmental organisations seeking to improve working conditions and develop more humane employment standards.
"Undocumented migrants are vulnerable as their illegal status puts them beyond the protection of the law and makes them particularly open to exploitation and abuse," SAMP said.
The report said wages in the agricultural sector were as low as R80 to R100 a month on some farms in Mpumalanga and Northern Province with working conditions dire and child labour common.
"In the Western Cape farmers have been trucking in unauthorised migrants from Lesotho where they earn less than R10 a day."
Similar conditions were reported in the construction and service industries in Gauteng.
"A common ploy is to hire workers on monthly contracts and then to report them to the police or Home Affairs the day before pay day. The workers are then arrested and deported while the employers get a month's work for free," the report said.
SAMP said immigration officials visited nearly 70,000 employers last year and checked on more than 300,000 employee IDs.
Many of the 180,000 people deported to surrounding countries last year were picked up by this method which could suggest an earnest effort to cut down on illegal employment, the report said.
Despite stiff penalties prescribed in legislation, only 23 employers were charged with employing illegal immigrants in 1996 compared to 73 in 1995.
"There is clearly something wrong with a system when illegal workers are picked up on a building site and deported while employers are not even wrapped over the knuckles," the report said.
processed Thu 10 Jul 1997 09:02 SAST.
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