Johannesburg - South Africa should embrace international migration for development of the country, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has said.
He reiterated that South Africa was committed to offering sanctuary to refugees.
“This is a matter which for us is not merely an international obligation, but a moral imperative. It is an expression of our foreign policy, which seeks to build a better Africa and a better world,” he said.
“Therefore our commitment to refugees is unwavering, and the challenge before us is to figure out what is the best way to discharge our mandate.”
Gigaba was speaking at a policy dialogue with civil society on the green paper on International Migration in Doornfontein on Friday. The green paper contends that it is neither desirable nor possible to stop international migration.
International migration is a natural, largely positive phenomenon which, if well managed, can and will make a crucial contribution to growing our economy and transforming Africa as envisioned in Agenda 2063. The paper sets out core principles to inform the nation’s management of international migration.
“We must manage international migration in a way which promotes human rights, advances the National Development Plan, takes into consideration our circumstances and resource constraints, and ensures all persons residing in South Africa - citizens and foreigners alike - are and feel safe.
“What must immigrants do for South Africans to realise the positive role, contribution and impact they can have on South African society in terms of development, security and the rule of law, social cohesion and integration?” he asked.
Genuine refugees have been disadvantaged by economic migrants using the asylum-seeker system to regularise their stay in South Africa. “Because our system is based on administrative justice and careful attention paid to each request for asylum, our asylum-seeker management system has come under huge strain. Genuine refugees have accordingly suffered long waits for status determination,” the minister said.
He added that while his department had implemented operational improvements to bring down the waiting times, policy intervention was long overdue.
“The policy seeks to implement a more rational asylum-seeker management system based on our assessment of required improvement, as well as international best practice. It also seeks to make the asylum-seeker process less attractive to economic migrants,” Gigaba said.
“Broadly, it proposes to process the claims of asylum seekers closer to the ports of entry where asylum seekers enter the republic, at designated processing centres. I want to emphasise that these are not detention centres, and we are not proposing an encampment policy.
“Processing centres are centres where asylum seekers will be accommodated during the status determination process and they will be open to civil society for observation and provision of basic services to asylum seekers,” he said.
The rationale is that as soon as an asylum seeker enters the country, three things should be accomplished: their identity should be established definitively as often they may not have identity documents; it must be determined whether they should be recognised as refugees within a prescribed period of weeks or months; and lastly, they must be provided with food, shelter, and any required health care or social services.
“The new policy does not intend to irrationally limit the freedom of movement for all categories of asylum seekers,” Gigaba said.