Pretoria - Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele on Friday said South Africa is spending significant amounts of money annually deporting illegal immigrants back to their countries of origin.
Declining to state the exact amount of money spent on the exercise, Cwele told journalists in Pretoria that sometimes the deported individuals find their way back into South Africa's borders.
"The problem is people who cross our borderline who are being trafficked [into South Africa]. The borderline is [manned by] the Department of Defence, but they cannot be at every point. The people are trafficked through all sort of borderline entry and they come into South Africa. We have a problem of people coming into the country illegally," said Cwele after a meeting with heads of diplomatic missions in Pretoria.
"We have a breakdown on which country to deport the people to and so on. We have agreed here with the ambassadors that we will work together to minimise this, to also minimise the return. Some of the people we send across, they come back and we get them again."
The minister said inspections were being done at workplaces across South Africa to determine the legal standing of employees.
Cwele said the significant amounts of money being spent on deportations had been disclosed during the closed-door meeting with diplomats.
"It would be irresponsible of me to put it out as if there is a big amount we are losing through deportations. We are saying it is worrying us that we are spending a significant amount over four years just for deportations. We have the responsibility to do so [deport], once we have arrested them. We must deport them within a certain period," said Cwele.
The minister emphasised that the majority of foreign nationals in South Africa are not criminals and many are making considerable contributions to the economy.
"We should communicate positively, that not every foreign national in here is a criminal. Some of them contribute positively to the growth of our country," said Cwele.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said the foreign envoys have committed to work with the government in a bid to coordinate the movement of people into and out of South Africa.
"The debate of whether [the attack on foreigners] it's xenophobia or criminality will continue. We are beginning to understand that these sporadic actions of the communities are usually a reaction to some kind of activities on the ground. It was raised that there are many peaceful communities, where you would not determine that there [are] foreigners living there, peacefully," said Cele.
"We want to make sure that we work with our brothers from the continent, the SADC region, to create a better way of living peacefully in an environment going beyond the South African borders. The Pan-Africanism must prevail and peace becomes part of Africa."
International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said South Africa welcomes foreign nationals, but they have to abide by the immigration rules.
Last week, more than 150 foreigners living in an informal settlement in Clare Estate in Durban had to flee the area after they were attacked by a group of men.
Several messages were doing the rounds in South Africa, warning of protests against the employment of foreign nationals in the country.