In response to a question about the case of a six-month-old child who was declared undesirable during the early implementation of the new immigration regulations, Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan cited it as an example of “asymmetries on information” — in other words the public was unaware or did not understand the new regulations, and sometimes neither did officials at points of entry.
Minister Malusi Gigaba stressed that the new regulations will stay and people should comply. He said, however, the department is accommodating all practical requests.
“The law that a person should apply in person is also not going anywhere. The reason why people should apply in person is not just about taking their biometrics, but also to compare information such as who is applying, what is their intention, and how long are they going to stay. This also helps with checking whether the person has not applied somewhere else.”
“It is important for us to do this because after our investigation on the Rwandan man who died in a hotel in Johannesburg, it turned out that the man who allegedly killed him was documented in two different countries under two different names”.
He said, “Many improvements have been affected as a result of the new regulations. Immigrants to South Africa are enjoying high quality service and improved turnaround times at our Visa Facilitation Centres.”
“Skilled professionals and business people are enjoying our improved visa regime, which includes the ability to apply for a critical skills before even finding a job, and the consideration of their families as a unit.”
The minister said he welcomed constructive engagement.
Two of the new requirements – the Unabridged Birth Certificate and written permission for travelling children which was to come into effect on October 1st have been postponed to 1 June 2015.
GroundUp asked if there was anything that could be done to help parents who are holders of Zimbabwe Dispensation Permit, now Zimbabwe Special Permits, whose children were born in South Africa, but now face challenges at the port of entry when they travel with their children to and from Zimbabwe. The children are not documented because the ZPS does not accommodate minors or spouses, but processes every person individually.
The deputy minister replied that after the parents apply for a birth certificate and passport at the Zimbabwe Embassy, they should proceed to apply for a visa at the Visa Facilitation Centres.
The department together with the stakeholders have found challenges relating to the new travelling requirements that all travelling children entering or exiting South Africa be in possession of a passport, an Unabridged Birth Certificate and written permission of both parents.
Parents must register their children within 30 days of giving birth as from 1 October 2014.
“We are not saying children will be denied citizenship but late registry allows other people who were not born here to lie and pay people to vouch for them and lie that their parents had passed away,” said Gigaba. “People argue that not all children are born in hospital, but we say straight after birth take your children to hospital and start with immunisation. We have over 100 mobile sites in rural areas.”
The implementation will affect children or minors born between 1996 and February 2013 and not children born from 3 March 2013 as the Department began issuing Unabridged Birth Certificates from then.
With approximately 17 million children born between 1996 and February 2013, only 1.1 million children have been issued with valid South African passports.
“It was put to the department that while the new regulations are accepted as necessary and are fully supported, due to these challenges and particularly in light of the upcoming peak, December and January for the festive season and April for Easter, a postponement would greatly assist travellers and the sector as a whole.”
Article by Tariro Washinyira and Thembela Ntongana