Durban – Migration issues were “highly politicised” because they involved power relations and contestation for space and scarce resources, according to the Minister of Home Affairs, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize.
“Migration issues are highly politicised, they are about power relations amongst those who are migrating and the receiving countries. It’s about contestation of space and scarce resources,” she said.
Mkhize was speaking at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus in Durban on Thursday during a dialogue on the management of international migration.
South Africa is grappling with balancing entry for skilled migrants and refugees with creating jobs for its 27.7% unemployed citizens - the highest in over a decade.
Mkhize said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced this week that, “an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Amongst these, there are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18”.
The home affairs minister said South Africa was questioning the capacity it had to absorb more people and how it would relate to migrants’ countries of origin.
“The thinking is that as people migrate from their countries, the host countries should have on-going engagements with the countries of origin so that, you hope, as their circumstances improve, there will be possibilities of secure repatriation”.
As a member state of the United Nations, South Africa needed to guide migratory processes and look after refugees, she said.
“The whole idea is that we have to protect the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all immigrants, regardless of their migratory status, at all times.”
Mkhize admitted that it was seen as contradictory that the country had embraced the African Union’s Agenda 2063. but was also putting in place interventions that controlled migration, such as border management.
Agenda 2063 calls for an integrated and politically united Africa and the free movement of people, capital, goods and services.
“We must know what is of national interest. It is important for us to secure our borders. If we don’t, we will end up with a situation where citizens have the impression that the government is failing to control migration,” she said.
According to the country’s White Paper for International Migration: “The current average of 62 000 asylum applications per annum makes South Africa the highest recipient of individual asylum seekers in Africa”.
The majority are from Zimbabwe, followed by Ethiopia, DRC and Nigeria.
The paper also says that the majority of illegal migrants come from neighbouring countries.
“Of the total number of 369 726 migrants that were deported between January 2012 and December 2016, nationals from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho made up 88%.”
The most likely reason a person applied for either a temporary or permanent residency visa was linked to spouses joining their partner, according to the paper.
The Paper states that during the 2014/15 financial year, of the 1955 applications for permanent residence based on marriage grounds “… 74% of these applications (1 362) were recommended for rejection on the basis that the marriages were found to be fraudulent”.