High number of undocumented immigrants 'untenable' - committee on Home Affairs

Minister of State Security Bongani Bongo. (Jan Gerber, News24)
Minister of State Security Bongani Bongo. (Jan Gerber, News24)

It is "untenable" that South Africa can have large numbers of undocumented immigrants, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs Bongani Bongo said.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Bongo called for full implementation of South Africa's immigration laws and regulations to ensure that everyone within South Africa's borders are documented, said Bongo.

He said the information that is gathered through documentation is essential for other government departments and non-governmental organisations to plan their work effectively.

He said the committee will strengthen its oversight on various aspects of the department's work, especially around immigration.

He said they intend to strengthen the department's work, as the National Development Plan is clear on the advantages of legal and developmental migration.

"The committee is clear that immigration should be legal and it wants the department to strengthen procedures for processing immigrants' applications. It is untenable that a country can have large numbers of undocumented immigrants and nothing is done about it," Bongo said.

There will be a three-pronged approach.

Firstly, the committee believes that completing the legislative-making process of the Border Management Authority is necessary to safeguard South Africa's borders. A seamless process in and out of the country is but one pillar in curbing illegal immigration.

Secondly, ensuring staff capacity at the Immigration Services Inspectorate should be a priority, as it is currently understaffed.

"But enforcement must be preceded by properly working application systems that are not prone to inordinate delays," Bongo emphasised.

Thirdly, the fight against forgery and corruption must be strengthened, by weeding out corrupt elements within Home Affairs. Accepting bribes to circumvent the system will not be tolerated.

In the last week of August, the committee will have an oversight visit to Gauteng, where it will engage with the Department of Home Affairs and other stakeholders in an attempt to resolve some of the challenges around documenting foreigners.   

"The committee condemns in the strongest terms the attack on law enforcement officials in the City of Johannesburg. Police have an important role to play in securing the safety of all and must not be subjected to such attacks," the statement reads.

Bongo said the committee also plans to engage with the Portfolio Committee of Small Business Development to ensure that regulations around small business trading are strengthened.

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