Illegal immigrants: No idea how many in SA, thousands deported annually


South Africa is a wonderful place to live in and many people in the world aspire to live here, work or be citizens of South Africa.

As a result, many foreign nationals come to South Africa and stay in the country illegally, said Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi at a news conference on Sunday during the release of the latest white paper on citizenship, immigration and refugee protection.

According to Motsoaledi, no one can account for all undocumented migrants and his department has no idea how many illegal immigrants there are in South Africa. “Immigration services, however, deport between 15,000 and 20,000 illegal foreigners every year at a great cost. This number is increasing.”

According to Motsoaledi, the introduction of the new Border Management Authority should significantly reduce the risk of foreigners entering the country illegally.

Motsoaledi said his department started the “arduous” process of drafting the white paper four years ago. Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet approved it for public comment on 1 November this year and it was last Friday in the government Gazette published.

Conflicts, armed violence, disasters, pandemics, search for better business and employment opportunities and other factors force people to leave their countries of origin for other countries, Motsoaledi said.

“There have been consistently loud voices calling for effective policy measures and legislative interventions regarding migration in South Africa. These voices grew louder as violent clashes between foreign nationals and nationals erupted.

“South Africa has different pieces of legislation that deal with citizenship, immigration and refugee protection. In practice, these pieces of legislation are not in harmony with each other.”

According to Motsoaledi, the white paper makes radical proposals about citizenship. Among others, he referred to the USA, Canada, Switzerland and Britain which have strict immigration, citizenship and refugee laws to protect the rights of their citizens.

“The criteria for granting any form of citizenship must be strictly in accordance with the law. A proper register must be kept for all people who are granted citizenship by naturalization by the minister. The register must be tabled by the minister in parliament every year.”

According to Motsoaledi, the recent publication of the national labor migration policy which introduces quotas for the employment of foreign nationals will also help to defuse the tension between South African citizens and foreign nationals.