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It is an honour and a privilege to deliver this paper at the opening of this conference. The subject matter, namely international migration, is one of the major problems facing not only South Africa, but the rest of the world today.
One of the major features of the "New World Order" is a massive upsurge in population migration across international boundaries, some of it formal and legal, most of it not. Southern Africa is no exception in this regard. The formal demise of apartheid has led to the lifting of all domestic legal constraints on freedom of movement. This, in turn, has brought an accompanying, and not unrelated, flood of work-seekers into South Africa from the Southern African region, as well as other parts of the world.
It became apparent at the recent SADC Ministers' meeting which the Minister chaired in Lusaka, Zambia, that immigration and trans-border migration will increasingly dominate policy agendas of South Africa and its neighbours. As the Reconstruction and Development Programme makes it clear that South Africa's position in the sub-continental economy is a major policy priority, cross-border migration constitutes an important dimension of South Africa's future relationships with its neighbours.
The issue of international migration is of crucial importance, not only for South Africa, but also for development in the SADC region. There are distinct types of migration and each has differential impacts on the destination and supply areas. The picture is further complicated by the fact that these different types of migration are closely inter-related. A downturn in contract migrancy, for example, seems to lead to an immediate upsurge in undocumented migrancy.
In the interest of social stability, balanced regional integration and equitable development, it is imperative to have a strong regional perspective on the issue of migration in all its forms.
Migration to South Africa must be seen from two angles: Firstly on a positive note, we must think of the benefits, and secondly, regrettably on a negative note the problem of illegal aliens migrating to the RSA has to be addressed. Migration remains one of the important functions of the Department of Home Affairs and in this regard there are very important developments envisaged for 1997.
The Department realizes that a properly managed immigration programme can be of great economic, social and cultural benefit to the country. The current policy is therefore aimed at allowing entry only to those persons who can contribute substantially towards the needs of the country in the form of personal skills or investments, leading to industrial expansion and job creation for the local population. This, distinguished guests, strikes at the heart of our immigration policy. This thinking is also in line with the thinking of other leading countries in the world.
The Department is convinced that research on migration, with a view to analyzing the problem, is an essential step towards finding lasting solutions to the global issue, with specific emphasis on the Southern African situation. The Centre for Socio-Political Analysis of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was therefore approached by my Department to conduct a comparative study of the relevant legislation in selected countries an an evaluation of the effectiveness of measures implemented for the combating of clandestine migration across international borders and illegal immigrants. The research is to be utilized as a helpful, practical guideline for the Department within the SADC framework.
The matter of illegal aliens remains high on the agenda of my Department. You will recall that between July and November 1996, citizens of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states who had been in the country at least five years prior to 30 June 1996, and who qualified in terms of certain conditions, were afforded the opportunity to apply for exemption in terms of which permanent residence in the RSA may be legally acquired. Approximately 200,000 applications were received and of these just over 50% have to date been approved. Taking also into account exemptions to mine workers and Mozambican refugees, a total of ±270,000 exemptions are being attended to.
South Africa has extended a gesture of goodwill to its neighbouring countries by granting these exemptions which are also referred to as amnesty. Illegal aliens who now continue to remain in South Africa will have to be removed as their presence is in contravention of the Aliens Control Act.
Further to this, as you will know, the Minister appointed a task team under the leadership of Dr. Wilmot James to investigate international migration and to draft a Green Paper. The Green Paper has been made available for public comment and the process will lead to a White Paper on International Migration. Migration will always be a sensitive issue with views ranging radically to the utmost extremes. This is evident from media reports, after the Green Paper was published by my Department for general information and comment, received from interested parties.
With respect to my Department, the Green Paper on International Migration recommends that the Department of Home Affairs initiates a transformation process that alters its ethos and institutional design, in at least four ways. The first is by thinking of itself as an agency delivering a service to the public and not as a controlling apparatus.
Secondly, the Green Paper recommends the minimization of executive and administrative discretion vested in the Department. Thus, what the task team suggests is that all decisions regarding refugees, migrants and immigrants be clearly governed by law and that Parliament should have a significant oversight role of an immigration and migration plan prepared by the Department and presented to Parliament. This plan that will be prepared annually or over a two year cycle, will specify desirable immigration and migration levels and characteristics and will be prepared by an inter-department committee consisting of representatives from government departments affected by immigration and migration, but hosted by the Department of Home Affairs.
Thirdly, the Green Paper recommends that on the basis of an Immigration and Migration Act, drafted from scratch, the new immigration authority be enforced by a professional cadre of immigration officers and not by the police. Because of expanded tasks, the Green Paper suggests that the Department be stripped of all functions other than those to do with refugee protection, citizenship, naturalization, migration and immigration.
Fourthly, for the presentation of a new institutional face to the public, a change of the Department's present name to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The "services" part of the name is important for it signals a shift in ethos, from control to rendering a service to the public.
The Green Paper has aroused surprisingly little public interest despite the importance of the issue to South Africa. Allow me at this time to reflect upon and share with you some of the comments that were received from interested parties. I quote but a few:
The Black Sash agreed in principle with the contents of the Green Paper, but requested that applications for permanent residence and citizenship by alien black persons with five years residence in the RSA, legal or illegal, be considered simultaneously. Reason being that holders of permanent residence only, are not entitled to social benefits;
The IOM is of the opinion that periodic amnesties are not an answer to irregular migration as the symptom is addressed, not the cause;
The Transvaalse Onderwys Vereniging is not in favour of an international labour pool of teachers to replace the losses in the education sector and is not in favour of SADC member states obtaining special access to South African universities and technicons as there are currently insufficient places for South African students at the mentioned institutions;
The University of the Witwatersrand agrees in principle with the contents of the Green paper, underlines the academic value to universities of foreign postgraduate students and is of the opinion that foreign students seldom take places away from South African students. Furthermore, the University is of the opinion that the presence of foreign students in postgraduate classes could make the classes more economic;
The Department of State Expenditure is of the opinion that a shortage of resources will lead to the reprioritization of activities;
The South African Revenue Service is of the opinion that informal trading brings significant benefits to South Africa and the region, but agrees that priority must be given to the strengthening of border control to counteract smuggling;
The Afrikaanse Handels Instituut stress the problems created by illegal aliens in the fields of labour i.e. their preparedness to work for lower wages compared to South African workers, workers rights, housing and infrastructure, to mention a few. I may add that the recent clashes between hawkers in Central Johannesburg serve as an example of the friction that exists between some illegals and South African workers;
The Department of Finance indicated that their Department will not endorse any of the initiatives mentioned in the Green Paper until the fiscus implications become clear;
The European Parliamentarians for Africa is of the opinion that Mozambicans must receive special treatment and that the deportation of Mozambican citizens must cease. AWEPA is also of the opinion that an integration programme must be established for Mozambicans who do not wish to return home;
The Town Council of Midrand indicated that the Council encounters serious problems with the escalating number of illegal aliens in informal settlement areas and is of the opinion that legislation is sadly lacking regarding transient camps where aforementioned persons can be housed before they are repatriated;
The Department of Health of the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape is concerned about the potential problem of the significant number of people immigrating or migrating to South Africa for the primary purpose of using South Africa's health care services. This poses a danger of an increasing drain on South Africa's medical resources and the risks of the spreading of infectious diseases;
The Self Employed Women's Union do not support the xenophobic approach to foreign traders and do not agree that informal trade needs to be regulated to minimize conflict. The Union encourages my Department to undertake a campaign of popular education and advertising to the public aiming to emphasize the economic benefits of increased trade with informal traders from other countries, to obtain public support for a new approach towards foreigners;
Amnesty International South Africa is of the opinion that the good policies suggested in the Green Paper will not be made reality unless more attention is paid to the funding of refugees;
The Chamber of Mines has pointed out the major role of migrant workers, both highly skilled to semi-skilled, in the mining industry of South Africa and indicated that 37% of employees to the industry are foreign migrants. The Chamber also questions whether contract workers should not be able to obtain South African citizenship after a specific period of residence;
The Lawyers for Human Rights generally supports the principles included in the Green Paper and strongly supports the principle of establishing immigration courts, but questions the capability of the courts to manage illegal residence;
The Province of KwaZulu-Natal points out that the Public Service can only appoint South African citizens to permanent posts, with the result that highly skilled professionals are denied advancement and either leave the country or seek employment in the private sector;
The Department of Housing indicated that SADC countries participating in the South African labour market will affect South Africa's housing policy, especially the low income migrants, other than those participating in the mining and agricultural sectors;
The Centre for Development and Enterprise welcomed the establishment of the task group as the Centre is of the opinion that government's current approach to migration appears to be ad hoc and rather confused; and
Cosatu is of the opinion that in the short to medium term, only an agreed number of migrants from neighbouring SADC countries should be allowed access to the South African labour market and heavy penalties should be imposed on employers who employ illegal migrants. However, under no circumstances should employers be allowed to pay foreign workers less than what they pay South African nationals and that such workers should be entitled to all the employment rights and protections of local workers.
Distinguished guests, Government needs to make a decisive choice on where it stands on the process of migration and its management. I believe that this conference will be an ideal stepping stone to involve persons from various sectors to assist Government in the process. South Africa and the SADC region need first leadership on this highly sensitive matter and a policy choice which will, most of all, benefit South Africa's citizens and permanent residents.
The Green Paper, as submitted to the Minister, is critically important as the task team reviewed South Africa's migration policy options and inter alia suggests that my Department should consider implementing a new migration policy that is more effective, but on condition that it is rights based.
It is clear that the task team attempted to make a thorough review of South Africa's policy options in this area, made an analysis of the cots and benefits of the different policy options available and then went about make a decisive choice as to how South Africa should deal with migration in the future, which in itself is a difficult phenomenon with numerous policy implications.
I commend the task team for their attempt to map out an international migration policy which breaks with previous racially discriminatory practices and which attempts to take into account the impact of migration policies on the Southern African region's economy.
In conclusion, chairperson, I wish to stress that the Green Paper deserves to be taken seriously by all South Africans and I wish to extend my sincere thanks to the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs and in particular Dr. Wilmot James and Mr. Desmond Lockey for hosting this conference.
I regard this conference as an important step in the process of formulating a White Paper on International Migration. May you have a fruitful discussion on the subject.
I thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
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