As South Africa struggles to free itself from the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the country’s high-net-worth individuals have been looking for ways to move abroad.
According to international law firm Harvey Law Group, there has been a rapid increase in enquiries from South Africans about emigration, particularly in the second quarter of this year, to countries including Canada, the UK and Australia.
“Harvey Law Group is not only assisting people in these very uncertain times with their emigration plans, but also advising South Africans to understand the various options available to them,” said Bastien Trelcat, managing partner of Harvey Law Group.
He said that, while the Covid-19 outbreak had hampered international travel and caused emigration and visa backlogs and rule changes, it had not prevented South Africans from planning to move abroad.
He added that there were a number of reasons people in higher income brackets wanted to leave South Africa, but the most prominent ones related to crime and security, more business opportunities, better education for their children and a better quality of life.
“While Covid-19 has delayed the relocation process, it hasn’t deterred many South Africans’ decisions to emigrate, or to have a plan B, should they wish to leave in the future,” said Trelcat.
“Rather than waiting for international travel to reopen, they’re using this period to finalise the administrative requirements to relocate internationally.”
He estimates that at least 25 000 South Africans emigrate per year, while the UN estimates that the number of South African-born people residing outside the country has increased from 330 000 in 1990 to well over 1 million this year.
In a survey conducted by Stats SA on the social impact of Covid-19 on mobility, migration and education in the country, nearly 6% of respondents said they’d moved to other provinces during the national lockdown.
The survey also indicated that international migrants who were born outside South Africa – mostly from Zimbabwe (22.6%) and Europe (22.6%) – had remained in South Africa during the lockdown because they’d feared they wouldn’t be able to re-enter the country.
More than half of them considered South Africa their home, while 11% felt that the Covid-19 pandemic was global and that they’d still be at risk, regardless of whether they moved.
About 5% of migrant respondents said they didn’t have money for travelling home or to send back to their families.
“Remittances are very often an important source of income for migrants’ families and any changes in the amount of remittances they receive will have a direct impact on the food security status, health and wellbeing of families in the countries of origin.
“The lockdown has, however, limited the amount of money migrants can remit, while also preventing the sending of physical goods across borders due to the closure of the country’s borders. Less than one-fifth (18%) of migrant respondents continued to remit during the lockdown,” the survey indicated.