South Africa has millions of foreign nationals who are unaccounted for, says Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
On Sunday, Motsoaledi said his department had no idea how many foreigners were in the country, adding that even Statistics South Africa had no idea.
He said the department did not have mechanisms in place to monitor and assess the number of foreigners who had settled in South Africa in the past 10 or so years.
On Sunday, the minister gave an update on citizenship, immigration and refugee protection in Pretoria as he launched a White Paper draft policy proposal on immigration and citizenship. It is aimed at putting stringent measures in place for citizenship and refugees.
Motsoaledi said the country deported as many as 20 000 illegal foreigners each year at huge economic cost to the country .
“Many foreigners come to South Africa and stay in the country illegally. No one can account for all the undocumented migrants. The Department of Home Affairs has no idea as to how many illegal migrants are in South Africa.
“There are those who believe that Stats South Africa knows. But it does not. I have checked this many times with the statistician-general (Risenga Maluleke), especially after the recent statistics being released,” he said.
In November 2020, Herman Mashaba, the former mayor of Johannesburg, caused a social media stir when he tweeted that there were 15 million “undocumented foreigners” living in South Africa.
Since then, there has been various accounts of how many illegal foreigners are in the country.
Motsoaledi said the recently published White Paper On Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection contained radical proposals that were aimed at overhauling the migration system.
The Cabinet approved the White Paper on Wednesday, November 1 2023, for public comment. It was published in the Government Gazette No. 49661 on November 10, 2023, after what Motsoaledi described as a “painstaking exercise of drafting”.
The draft policy aimed to provide a framework to guide the granting of residency and citizenship to foreign nationals, as well as the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa, cognisant of the Republic’s national security interests and in compliance with international agreements and protocols on migration that South Africa is party to.
Motsoaledi said no country should make laws that benefited other people at the expense of its citizens.
“ Not even our neighbours are doing that.”