IMMIGRATION lobby groups have slammed the Home Affairs Department-contracted Global VFS for poor planning in not being able to cater for the “high volume” of visa applicants in the city.
This comes after an office meant to process visas for foreign nationals in Adderley Street shut down because the landlord, Rennie Properties, had “run foul” of the tenant, Global VFS, due to safety concerns.
The closure has led to hundreds of applicants being turned away when they came to submit and collect their documentation.
The VFS Cape Town office served about 300 applicants daily and the landlord had no problem with that number. That changed when Lesotho citizens were able to apply for the Home Affairs Department’s Lesotho Special Permit (LSP).
The number of people seeking to enter the premises sharply increased to about 1 000 daily, prompting the landlord to close the office.
Forum for Immigration Practitioners South Africa (FIPSA) provincial chairperson Rod Maxwell said the closure will have far-reaching consequences as applicants whose visas expired yesterday will become illegal.
Maxwell said the problem arose because applicants came to the offices in large numbers, blocking entrances, restaurants and shops situated nearby.
“Indeed our clients are unhappy because due to the closure some applicants have now become illegal, with devastating consequences on their lives,” said Maxwell.
He said applicants had to travel vast distances to visit the offices and these were the unintended costs of people not being aware of the closure.
“It is typical of the department and its partners that they knew about the problem some time ago and failed to plan,” he said.
Visa applicant and Malawian national Loyd Njila was disappointed he had to travel from Worcester, only to be told the offices were closed.
VFS Africa Operations chief operating officer (COO) Jiten Vyas said: “Due to high numbers of visitors to our offices, building management raised concerns of crowd management.
“He said they were negotiating with the building’s management to find a viable and safe solution for visitors and the other tenants of the building.
“We regret the inconvenience and have taken the following mitigation steps to ensure business continuity.”
He said from today applications can be submitted at 47 Strand Street.
According to the International Academic Programme Office, which oversees migration between countries, there are currently 1.2 million Lesotho citizens on South Africa’s National Population Register (NPR).
IAPO says there are more than 400 000 people from Lesotho living in South Africa without either valid residence or work permits (visas), making their stay in the country both unofficial and unlawful.
The LSP will rectify this and allow Lesotho nationals to access economic opportunities lawfully. To ensure smooth facilitation, the South African government has granted a moratorium on deportations until December 31, 2016.