Critics of new refugee regulations are 'prophets of doom' - Bongani Bongo

2020-01-10 19:57
Bongani Bongo (Jan Gerber, News24)

Bongani Bongo (Jan Gerber, News24)

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Those criticising the recently gazetted Refugee Amendment Act Regulations are "pessimists or prophets of doom", according to portfolio committee on home affairs chairperson Bongani Bongo.

In a statement, Bongo welcomed the regulations, which he said would deal effectively with challenges the previous regulations could not address.

"We believe that the regulations form part of the broader efforts that are aimed at strengthening the immigration system and ensure that the system is not manipulated for nefarious reasons. We call on the department to properly train its employees on the new regulations and ensure that they are adequately and fully implemented," Bongo said, according to the statement.

He criticised "some of the pessimists or prophets of doom who have been critical about the new regulations".

"We have noted the unconstructive criticism on these regulations with concern as the critics don't provide alternative and viable options. For example, the regulations have been criticised even though they have broadened the scope where a permit can be withdrawn because of fraud. We believe that these regulations will strengthen the system and must be welcomed instead of being criticised," Bongo said.

According to him, the regulations should achieve three basic responsibilities: ensure South Africa's sovereignty and security, to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and uphold international obligations that South Africa was a signatory to.

"We believe very strongly, as the committee, that these regulations will certainly deter the tide of corruption and fraud in the system and maintain on a sustainable basis the balance between the three responsibilities."

Bongo said the prescribed requirements would strengthen the application process for entry into the country, especially the requirements that the applicant should present a valid asylum transit visa from the country through which they travelled at the port of entry and that the applicant should provide valid identification and submit the biometric data.

He believed these requirements would ensure that only genuine asylum seekers and refugees applied, and the system would be protected from abuse. 

He said the committee would, in the next term, create time to engage the Department of Home Affairs on the new regulations and how their implementation had gone since January 1, 2020.

On Thursday, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, speaking to News24 on the sidelines of the ANC's January 8 celebrations, dismissed criticism of the amendments, saying the changes were aimed at closing gaps in the legislation.

The new measures include changes relating to the definition of a dependant, exclusions, the abandonment of applications, conditions for the withdrawal of refugee status, banning of refugees from participation in political affairs of their home countries and training of members of the standing committee on refugees, among others.

It has drawn criticism for the banning of refugees from participating in active politics. Some saw it as a way of encouraging xenophobia and something which was at odds with the ANC's history.

Read more on:    bongani bongo  |  refugees
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