Undocumented foreigners arrested as police raided buildings in the Johannesburg CBD. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency(ANA)

CAPE TOWN - The chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs Bongani Bongo on Thursday welcomed the arrest of illegal immigrants during a multi-organisation raid in inner Johannesburg’s central business district (CBD).

“It must remain clear that while legal and developmental immigration is encouraged and can be beneficial to the growth prospects of the country, we remain steadfast that illegal immigration must be discouraged at all times,” Bongo said in a statement.

South African Police Service (SAPS) carried out a second raid in Johannesburg on Wednesday. More than 600 foreign nationals have been jailed.

This follows after police were chased out of the area by business owners after the authorities tried to confiscate counterfeit products last week. A massive e outcry from the public ensued after videos of the police running away from vendors, many of them foreign nationals went viral on social media platforms. Police vehicles were pummeled with rocks and police fled the area. 

According to Bongo, migration is a reality that South Africa must accept and leverage for development and economic growth. 

“Nonetheless, migration must happen within the framework of international and national law. It is this context that the committee welcomes the arrest and possible deportation of these illegal immigrants,” he said.

The committee said it continues to emphasise the need for the Department of Home Affairs to strengthen its application processes to remove obstacles for asylum seekers and critical skills immigrants, and the need to fight corruption to ensure the credibility of the department’s systems and documentation.

Meanwhile, the committee has received correspondence from Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. The committee will discuss the correspondence and then make a decision on it. 

“The guiding principle informing the work of the committee is that efforts by all stakeholders are important if we are to resolve the challenges facing the country. We must all work together to find workable solutions to these challenges,” Bongo said.

On Wednesday, Mashaba said he wanted Parliament to hold the Department of Home Affairs accountable for the "illegal immigration crisis".

He said this was because his attempts in the past three years to engage the five ministers of home affairs on addressing the issue of undocumented immigrants were ignored. Mashaba said he wrote to Bongo on Monday, requesting an opportunity to appear before the portfolio committee to provide a briefing on the "dysfunctional state" of the Department of Home Affairs.

African News Agency (ANA)