Bus operators who consciously transport illegal immigrants across South Africa’s ports of entry could have their permits revoked by the Border Management Authority (BMA).
The border law enforcement authority gave this stern warning as it raised concern about the number of public transporters and conveyancers found to have been transporting illegal immigrants over the 2023/24 festive period.
At a briefing in Pretoria on Sunday, Dr Mike Masiapato, the commissioner of the BMA, detailed that between December 6 and January 18, the authority had imposed 98 administrative fines to various conveyancers, especially bus companies, amounting to R3 540 000 in value.
He explained that bus companies were transporting illegal migrants across the border at a cost of R15 000 per person.
Masiapato said they had managed to collect R9.8 million in outstanding fines from about 25 bus companies.
However, in view of the growing number of incidents, they had met with the representatives of at least 30 bus companies involved in transporting people in and out of the country and implored them to cease this activity.
“They have committed to ensuring that valid passports would be required from all travellers when procuring cross-border tickets and for entering the bus on travel day.
“We further engaged the leadership of the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency and agreed that bus companies should comply with the conditions of their cross-border permits, otherwise such permits would be withdrawn,” he said.
Over and above that, Masiapato said during the 43 days observed, South Africa had seen as many as 5 096 288 travellers across its 71 ports of entry, an increase of 1 million as compared to the previous year.
However, this was still a smaller number than in the pre-Covid period, when the country would see at least 6 million travellers.
The BMA said the majority of travellers had made their way into the country through the OR Tambo International Airport. However, there were significant increases across major ports such as the Lebombo land port of entry from Mozambique as well as the Beitbridge entry from Zimbabwe.
Law enforcement teams had apprehended 15 924 persons attempting to enter the country without the relevant documentation, the majority of whom were intercepted around the Lebombo port of entry.
A total of 6 455 people were denied entry for being undesirable, either due to them committing crimes in other countries or appearing on Interpol’s Red List.
In addition, 4 626 people were refused entry as they had invalid passports, fraudulent visas or failed to produce valid yellow fever certificates.
In total, 27 005 people were deported while attempting to enter the country illegally.