Cape Town - A happy holiday in Namibia has left a Newlands family torn apart after South Africa’s new immigration regulations barred the Danish-born wife from coming back into the country.
Louise Egedal Johnson was detained in a room at Cape Town International Airport for six hours on Sunday, and then forced to leave South Africa on a one-way ticket to Copenhagen with her son Samuel, 2.
Her husband, Brent Johnson, 41, who is in charge of environmental matters for a Canadian mining company, is wandering around their Newlands home distraught.
He said Home Affairs officials had called his wife an “undesirable person”, and forced her to leave the country.
“My son has a South African birth certificate but he is only two and we couldn’t separate him from his mother.”
Johnson said officials would not allow him to get his wife the blood thinners she needed to take before a long-haul flight.
He described the experience as ”savage” and “brutal”, and is now planning to fight the matter in court.
Johnson said he and his wife had been married since 2009. In February she had applied to have her spousal visa renewed.
“Little did we know that in the intervening period the department would, by stealth, remove the directive that allows the receipt for this submission to be used as proof of compliance.”
The new regulations came into effect on May 26, but unaware of the new regulations, two days later the family left for a holiday in Namibia. Johnson said that when they left the country his wife was issued with an “undesirable notice” and fined R1 500.
He said the immigration official did not explain the consequence would be that his wife would not be allowed back into South Africa.
“We were told to go to the embassy in Windhoek and contest it if we had a problem.”
Johnson said the family went nowhere near Windhoek during the trip, but he did make several calls to the immigration office in Cape Town and the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria.
“Eventually the Home Affairs customer care centre simply told me to talk to a senior immigration official when we got back.”
Johnson said that when the family returned to Cape Town International Airport on Sunday, his wife was kept in a room with no food or water for six hours.
A senior official eventually told the family: “Well you didn’t have to leave – you should have been told.”
“She (the official) then decides my wife won’t be allowed back in, and additionally refuses my request to allow my wife to see her doctor on Monday to obtain critical blood thinning medicine she requires for long-haul travel.”
He had to buy one-way tickets for his wife and son to Copenhagen.
“The trauma must be second only to a loved one dying… seeing your family forced to leave through plated glass, your child crying and reaching out to you, your wife trying to stay strong but struggling.”
Johnson said the family were being punished for the department’s “walloping ineptitude”.
“How can something that tears families apart be law?”
He said that while stuck at the Home Affairs office at the airport on Sunday he learnt that the officials would receive training on the new regulations only this week.
Johnson said he couldn’t sleep and was struggling with anxiety.
“So now my family sits in Copenhagen, I wander around my house looking at my child’s toys and hearing his laughter. Except he is not here as he should be.”
Johnson’s attorney, Craig Smith, was expected to bring an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court and was expected to argue that declaring a person undesirable was “irrational and unconstitutional”.
He said anyone who had a pending visa or permit application should not be rendered “undesirable” and should be allowed to travel.
“This will set the precedent for future applicants.”