Ladies and gentlemen of the media
It gives me great pleasure, to once again get an opportunity of presenting to you the highlights of the Department of Home Affairs since I addressed you at a similar occasion in September last year. I will also, in brief, touch on the envisaged activities for the remainder of 1998.
Given the time limit at my disposal, my presentation will only cover a few issues, thus allowing more time to respond to your questions.
It is a widely known fact that our country has a serious shortage of skilled and experienced Information Technology workers. Having realised that this problem even extends beyond our borders, my Department has embarked on intensive training programmes, placing special emphasis on members of the previously disadvantaged communities. In this regard, my Department has also made excellent progress in preparing its Information Technology environment for the Year 2000.
It is also with pleasure that I can report on progress made with the evaluation of tenders for the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS). Let me remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that this system will enable the Department to implement an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and an Identity Card (IDC), which, if compared to the existing ID books, should be extremely difficult to forge. It is quite clear therefore, that both the public and private sector will benefit from this venture.
The following evaluation process is being followed:
- At the close of tender on 20 March 1997, thirteen tenders
were received. Two of them were instantly rejected by the State
Tender Board as they did not meet the basic minimum requirements.
- Four of the remaining eleven tenders were eliminated after Phase 1A
- With evaluation being based more on technical aspects as phases progressed, two more tenders were eliminated after Phase 1B.
- The evaluation process has now reached Phase 2, which includes both technical and pricing evaluation.
In this phase tenderers were afforded the opportunity to give a further presentation and demonstration to the Department. This was finalised on 30 January 1998. The Department will endeavour to finalise Phase 2 with the State Tender Board during the first week of March 1998, after which the tenderers who will proceed to the last phase of the evaluation Phase 3, will be shortlisted.
Everything being equal, we envisage that the tender will be awarded during the first half of 1998, with implementation early in 1999, as planned at the beginning of this process.
It is inevitable that for some time to come, we will still be issuing manual identity Documents (ID's). Since the beginning of 1997, applications for identity documents are being received at an average rate of more than 11 000 per day. This trend is unprecedented, and therefore places heavy strain on the limited resources. However, we have various measures in place to cope with the persisting backlogs.
In preparation for the 1999 general election my Department is doubling its efforts to ensure that identity documents are issued timeously. This will enable all eligible applicants, to register as voters and consequently cast their votes. With the ID Campaign soon to be launched, a further increase in the number of applications for Identity Documents is expected. This campaign is scheduled to commence in March 1998.
The South African Law Commission has made steady progress with their investigation into the new Marriage Act. A discussion paper on customary unions was published last year for comment by 19 January 1998 and various workshops on the topic have already taken place. A request to the public for an input by 20 February 1998 on the new Marriage Act was also made by means of a media release. Draft legislation will be prepared as soon as the Law Commission's findings and recommendations have been received.
The Department is working in close collaboration with the Department of Health to increase the rate of registration of births and deaths and in assisting them to gather vital statistics thereof, which are necessary for the drafting of health strategies and policies. In this regard, new documents for death and birth notices will be ready for implementation during the course of the year.
In line with the Cabinet decision to improve service delivery, my Department has developed a Service Delivery Improvement Plan in consultation with the Department of Public Service and Administration.
The Plan addresses issues such as identifying who our customers are, the current and future levels of service and the arrangements required to be in place to enable the Department to effectively deliver an improved standard of service. We will soon go public with the details of this Plan.
The dawn of a new South Africa in 1994 ushered in democratic rule and a human rights-based culture. It is in this light that we had to review the Aliens Control Act (1991) and effect some amendments to bring it in line with the Constitution. The latter document, especially through the Bill of Rights, in Chapter Two, refers not only to South Africans, but everyone, when dealing with rights or obligations. We interpret this to include aliens in our country and thus afford them particular rights in terms of the Constitution.
Our Constitution also makes provision for internal matters to be dealt with within the context of international law and good practices. This, plus the fact that we are signatories to various international human rights laws, like the 1951 UN, 1967 Protocol and 1969 OAU Refugee Conventions imposes further obligations on how we treat certain categories of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in South Africa. We should also bear in mind that South Africa has been roped in as a member of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in 1997. Furthermore, South Africa was admitted to the International Organisation for Migration in 1997, presenting certain further obligations on dealing with international migration. The Director-General of the International Organisation for Migration, Mr Purcell, is expected to visit South Africa next week.
Thirdly, we are part of the sub-region and part of SADC and our policies need to take cognisance of this. The economies of the sub- region are tightly interwoven and interdependent. Consequently, we in South Africa need to always bear the region in mind when developing our policies. We should of course, also insist that our regional partners adopt a similar stance. A good example is our present discussions with the EU in which we have prominently projected a regional stance.
You will remember that as a result of the political stability in Mozambique, at the time, the refugee status of Mozambicans living in South Africa was uplifted with effect from 3 December 1996. The Cabinet has recently given us permission to grant on application, right of residence in South Africa to about 90 000 Mozambican refugees. This number adds to the 124 073 SADC nationals, who had been here since 1986 and met certain conditions as decided by Cabinet, as well as 50 692 miners, who were also exempted from the provisions of Section 23 of the Aliens Control Act, 1996. The costs that these extra people will impose on the country have not yet been determined.
To be able to cope with asylum applications, the asylum component within the Department is staffed by well-trained officers. Each member has been specifically trained in international principles regarding refugees, with the assistance of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Due to the increase of staff in the said component, backlogs that were created, are being attended to and -have been drastically reduced. The Refugee Affairs Appeal Board has also increased its establishment from one to two members in orders to better address the needs of asylum seekers.
My Department is currently formulating a White Paper on refugee policy, as well as a Draft Refugee Bill, which will be tabled in Parliament this year. As for the granting of visa exemptions, my Department ensures that they are not made available to countries generally regarded as problematic to the RSA. This is due to unfavourable socio-political climates prevailing in those countries, which could result in influxes of refugees, economic migrants and persons with criminal intentions. A further reason is that people from these states tend to abuse their visitors' visas to illegally take up employment in the RSA.
For those countries' nationals the visa serves as a preliminary screening process and the criteria for granting visas are rather tight. Airline and other carriers operating internationally are regularly updated on the countries to which visa control apply and are required by law to enforce the visa requirement or else face a penalty of R5 000 per prohibited person conveyed. The Department of Home Affairs is, however, in regular consultation with conveyers and attempts to equip them with the knowledge of dealing with and circumventing prospective improperly documented migrants.
There are disputes about the number of illegal migrants in South Africa and understandably so. In fact, I would be surprised that any country in the world could accurately determine this phenomenon. After all, these people by their nature do not want to be found and our resources and systems for enumerating people are limited. Thus, we have to deal with estimates, extrapolations, forecasts and surveys, all methods with deficiencies. For example, the HSRC estimate is 2,5 to 4,1 million illegal aliens, the Central Statistical Services in their preliminary result from the 1996 census speak of 500 000. Such wide variances make it difficult to develop sound policies and to argue for sufficient allocation of resources to this issue.
My Department is well aware of the problem in regard to aliens abusing the system to acquire identity documents and passports by means of fraudulent late registration of births.
In order to control such registrations more stringently, draft legislation to empower the Minister of Home Affairs to prescribe, by Regulation, measures to control late registration of birth, is being prepared for submission during the current session of Parliament.
I believe the following data will help contextualise some of the efforts the Department takes to reduce this alarming number of illegal aliens:
Since 1990, deportations to 54 countries and repatriations to 102 countries world-wide, have been rising. In 1990, they totalled 293. In 1992, they rose to 83 109, skyrocketing to 157 695 in 1995 and 181 230 in 1996. The only decline experienced, was in 1994 when the number fell from 97 233 of 1993, to 90 900.
Financial resources used for tracing illegal immigrants, keeping them in. holding facilities and repatriating them are an onerous strain on the country. We spend R210 million annually on repatriations. The costs increase the further away the person's country of origin is approximately R1 000 in Southern Africa to between R4 000 and R8 000 in Europe, America and Asia per person excluding the compulsory escort, from either the police or Home Affairs.
The above costs do not include hidden expenses such as feeding and accommodating illegal aliens, medical bills and manpower costs to the State. The SANDF calculates that each illegal caught at the border costs them R4 000. Our long porous borders are too costly to police effectively, however, the adoption of the collective approach to border control in which various government departments and other role- players are involved is beginning to have a positive impact on this situation. The cost of spending so much resources on non-developmental activities is high for the country. In a nutshell one can almost say these are wasted resources.
Furthermore, we need to remember the negative impact on housing, education, welfare, health facilities and the job market that illegal immigrants pose. For example, if illegal immigrants are able to obtain identity documents and other South African papers they could become eligible for housing subsidies, jobs, scholarships and so forth. They could also vote whilst not qualifying to do so. Furthermore, we are receiving increasing reports of positive correlation between illegal migration and crimes like prostitution, drug abuse, money laundering, sale of counterfeit goods, illegal movement of arms and car hijacking (which are destined for cross-border markets). This shows the obvious link between migration and security matters. With the above impacts it is not surprising that there is in the country growing resentment to most foreigners.
Most of the illegal aliens either deported or repatriated have been from Southern Africa, mainly Mozambicans, Zimbabweans and Basotho. They have left their countries to seek better economic opportunities in South Africa. We need to note that due to overstaying there are large numbers of people from other parts of the world who are also illegally in South Africa.
There are a number of people from non-African countries, transgressed their temporary residence status for a number of years:
In 1997 alone, 6 420 were from the United Kingdom, 6 011 from Germany, 2 494 from France, 2 256 from the United States of America, 2 068 from the kingdom of Netherlands, and 1 247 from India. I have only chosen these countries because their numbers amount to thousands. There are basically illegal aliens from almost every country here in South Africa.
The above situation emphasises the salience of having reliable data on migration issues in order to develop sound policies. However, one can never really know the exact number of illegal aliens in the country. Nevertheless, efforts at collecting data by various public and private sector agencies, plus the use of forecasting, modelling and extrapolation methods will give us a relatively good idea of numbers and impact of these people on the country. This will influence policies and strategies for dealing with the issue. However, we would argue that this needs to be done in a systematic manner, and with due regard to the fact that migration is a multi-faceted issue where all relevant stakeholders in both the private and public sectors should be actively involved in finding acceptable solutions for this major national population concern.
Having good labour market data will also help various departments and other parties to determine needs. With such data, Foreign Affairs could assist in disseminating information abroad, whilst Home Affairs deals systematically and on an informed basis with job applications received and in developing policy.
South Africa has just emerged from a difficult past, which amongst other things left a legacy of widespread underdevelopment and deprivation. Just as the country is trying to come to grips with determining and plotting strategies to meet its people's needs and to develop, it faces a deluge of migrants, mainly illegals. That this would cause xenophobia and resentment should not be surprising. However, we also recognise that we are perceived as an island of wealth in a sea of poverty, making us a magnet for migration.
As a result of the unemployment crisis facing this country my Department has been compelled to, once again, look at the needs of the South African community, by ensuring that foreign workers are no longer allowed to be employed in positions which could have been offered to local inhabitants.
More stringent control measures have also been adopted resulting in the onus being placed on employers, to ensure that their foreign recruits at all times hold valid work
Companies could therefore be prepared to accept full responsibility for those Kin their employ. Although we recognise the need for skilled professionals who possess knowledge and experience not readily available in South Africa, such persons should only be encouraged to come to this country to impart their specialised knowledge and expertise by upgrading the skills of local co-workers with a view to their eventually replacing them.
In order to ensure that employment opportunities are in the first instance offered to South African citizens, the Department will in future scrutinise all official employment contracts offered to foreigners thoroughly and the South African public should also assist us by refraining from any acts which could encourage illegal immigrants from obtaining employment.
In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, I would like to indicate that despite its negative implications to the country Migration also has a positive side. This would, amongst others, include the transfer of highly trained personnel, technology and capital. Since South Africa rejoined the community of nations we have seen huge increases in resources coming to this country. The multiplier effects have been evident in increased economic growth and development; greater sporting and cultural ties with the rest of the world and knowledge transfers.
As a diverse population we have recognised unity in diversity through the mosaic of people comprising our population. This intermingling of cultures is increasing by the day as more and more people from all over the world visit this country.
We need to make sure therefore, that our migration policies are informed by national interests, such as the improvement of the lives of our people, through economic development, job creation, health care, education and so forth.
I thank you