29/05/2014. Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, during a press briefing about the new immigration regulations that have been put in place by the government. Picture: Masi Losi

Durban - The new immigration regulations are here to stay to protect not only South Africa’s economic interests, but to also regulate the influx of “economic migrants” who pose as asylum seekers, says Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.

The new regulations and new visa regime came into effect on May 26 and have been widely criticised, particularly by the tourism industry.

The department has already lost a court case in the Western Cape High Court that relates to people who could not return to the country to be reunited with their spouses as a result of the new laws.

Addressing the media before his department’s budget vote, Gigaba said foreign nationals and those who were rich didn’t want to subject themselves to the same rules as everybody else.

He said the regulations would target wealthy foreigners who overstayed their welcome in the country and, depending on the frequency of their breaches, would be declared “non-desirable” and barred from entering the country for a period.

“You cannot begin to relax your visa regime and your immigration regime unilaterally without taking into consideration security and other local development challenges,” said Gigaba.

He said the country was faced with a lot of economic migrants who, when they couldn’t “regularise” their entry and stay through proper channels, “they then try to apply for asylum”.

“This then takes away the rights of genuine asylum seekers who have to wait in long, unnecessary queues,” said Gigaba.

He said the regulations would also simplify the visa system. “For example, we are now saying… if you have a critical skill… you can apply for a visa in SA and get it even before you get a job,” said Gigaba.

He said the decisions were informed by “abuse” of the system and by risks that were being faced in the country in the “national interest”.

“What do we do in cases where people deliberately and maliciously overstay? Because they know they can evade the penalties and they have a lot of money and they keep paying the penalties,” said Gigaba.

Political Bureau