Johannesburg – Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said on Friday the city, working with the home affairs department, had conducted seven raids to net immigrants without legal documents so far this year, with 230 repatriated to date.
Mashaba, a member of the main opposition Democratic Alliance which took over running of the city after 2016 municipal elections, has highlighted rooting illegal immigrants among some of his priorities, accusing some of them of being involved in crime.
"Both the department and city agree that the challenge of illegal immigration in Johannesburg has reached crisis level," Mashaba said on Friday.
" To address this challenge it is essential that we adopt a whole of society approach, at different levels of government and in partnership with civil society."
He condemned xenophobic attacks against foreigners, pledging to ensure that "those who intend perpetuating violence against immigrants, face the full might of the law".
"I welcome foreign nationals into our city and country, and respect the rights of legitimate refugees and asylum seekers," Mashaba said.
"All I have asked is that those who wish to enter our country, do so lawfully, and while they are here, they respect our laws."
He accused the government of the ruling ANC party of failing in its responsibility to ensure that people entering the country were processed and timeously provided with relevant documentation.
Mashaba, who denies being biased against African immigrants in particular, condemned remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at a summit in Kigali, Rwanda this week backing open borders and free movement of people across the continent.
Millions of people from troubled African countries have moved to South Africa, fleeing political and economic hardships back home, to the resentment of some locals who accuse them of taking their jobs.
"I see (Ramaphosa's) statements as not only reckless, but also completely devoid of understanding the real challenges we are facing on the ground due to our porous borders," Mashaba said.
"Within the context of the city of Johannesburg, illegal immigration compounds serious challenges in the provision of basic services to residents. We are faced with a housing backlog of an estimated 300 000 units."
"There are an estimated 190 informal settlements across the City and this number is increasing. In addition, one in three residents of Johannesburg are unemployed."
"A Johannesburg that works is a South Africa that works. And in turn, a South Africa that works is an Africa that works."
African News Agency/ANA