The fence at the Beitbridge border separating Zimbabwe and South Africa. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
The fence at the Beitbridge border separating Zimbabwe and South Africa. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Over 300 illegal foreigners arrested for trying to enter SA during lockdown

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published May 30, 2020

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Cape Town - Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has revealed that his department has found an increase of more than 300 foreigners trying to enter the country during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown amid the questions in the Beitbridge border post fencing.

Motsoaledi revealed this in a written response to a parliamentary question from IFP MP Liezl van der Merve.

Van der Merve had wanted to know if Motsoaledi had been informed that persons were  passing through the Beitbridge border post on a daily basis for shopping and other non-essential travel during the lockdown.

She also asked if the department has found an increase in the number of undocumented migrants entering the country, a move directly related to the Beitbridge border fence being compromised.

In his response, Motsoaledi said no person was allowed entry or departure which did not relate to essential services.

He confirmed the number of arrests by the South African National Defence Force was increasing. "In April 2020, 22 undocumented foreigners were arrested and by May 2020, the number of arrests has increased to  357 undocumented nationals. "The department is finalising deportation processes in this regard," Motsoaledi said.

The minister would not be drawn into commenting on the fencing of the border post which was underway.

Van der Merve had asked whether the department had found the 40 kilometre border fence adequate to help it to enforce the laws regulating entry into the country.

"The Department of Home Affairs was not involved in the procurement of the border fence and a response should be requested from DPWI (Department of Public Works and Infrastructure)," Motsoaledi said.

The R37m tender for fence the border post raised eyebrows recently. This after the newly erected fence was damaged, and  large holes had been cut into the multi-layered razor wire fence. The awarding of the tender is subject of a probe by the Special Investigating Unit.

The minister also revealed that there were no temporary asylum-seeker permits that have been automatically renewed since the national state of disaster was declared. He, however, said there were 118 842 asylum seekers with a permit expiry date after  May 4.

"As at 31 March 2020 there were 80 758 refugees with active section 24 certificates recorded on the National Immigration Information System," Motsoaledi said.

Responding to EFF MP Lorato Tito, the minister said if  there were new applicants who have entered the country as lockdown was declared, they would receive assistance in the communities where they reside.

"It should be noted that the republic has not abdicated its international obligations, especially to those who will declare their intention to apply for asylum.

"The principle of non-refoulment is fully applicable even under these circumstances we currently face and therefore Immigration Officials are expected to assist such persons should they encounter them during law enforcement operations," Motsoaledi said.

Political Bureau

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's special #Coronavirus page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za 

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