OPINION

Our immigration plan will secure borders and stop illegal immigration – DA

Jacques Julius says DHA is crippled by corruption to a point where it actively contributes to the problem

DA’s immigration plan will secure our borders and stop illegal immigration

15 October 2018

South Africa, under the ANC, is not the country it could be. We have been taken down the wrong path by decades of ANC mismanagement and corruption. One of the areas that have been affected most by a failing ANC is immigration.

The impact of porous borders and an ineffective, mostly corrupt Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has created a situation where we are completely unaware of the number of people who come in and out of the country. That has profound consequences on the efforts against cross-border crime such as human and drug trafficking, stock theft as well on the provision of basic services to our people - as local and provincial governments are forced to plan and budget for service provision without the most basic of information.

No country in the world can afford to not secure their borders precisely because uncontrolled immigration violates the rights of both nationals of a given country and those foreign nationals who seek to be legally recognised. This is an urgent debate throughout the world. As a party committed to liberal democratic values we believe that this debate can be approached with a responsible and balanced approach, beyond a crude nationalism, best typified by the Trumpian call to simply build a wall. South Africa also stands virtually alone on the African continent, with such an unregulated approach to immigration.

The ANC has failed to secure our borders, under its watch the Department of Home Affairs is crippled by corruption and inefficiency to a point where it actively contributes to illegal immigration, and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has not been afforded the human and technical resources it needs to patrol our borders and secure them.

The immigration system has essentially collapsed, and the ANC has no idea how to fix it. This is evident in the widespread practice of bribery at DHA to get service, the deplorable condition of reception and Lindela centres and the inability to provide basic services in communities is creating an environment which lends itself to xenophobic violence.

When people in communities do not have the confidence in our immigration system to accept that foreign nationals who are here, are here legally, it creates mistrust which fosters violence. There is a real threat that people believe they are competing for basic services such as housing and healthcare.

The DA has a plan that would turn this crisis around and would protect both South Africans and foreign nationals.

The ANC’s failing immigration system:

It is a fact that South Africa has poor border control systems that are unable to accurately and efficiently record the movement of people and goods through our borders.

South Africa’s landward border stretches around 4800 kilometres. We currently have only 15 of the necessary 22 SANDF sub-units to patrol the border. Our borders are porous and, in far too many places, non-existent or not patrolled effectively because the SANDF does not have the human, technical and infrastructural resources it needs to get the job done effectively.

The DHA is riddled with corruption and mismanagement. We have an overburdened, under-resourced asylum system plagued by corruption and persistent backlogs. According to the DHA, there is a backlog of about 140 000 asylum claims which are yet to be finalised. Civil society organisations, however, argue that this number is understated because it does not account for claims which “fall out” of the system for various reasons, for example, permits not being renewed timeously.

Backlogs are further exacerbated by the failure of DHA together with the Department of Public Works to timeously give effect to Constitutional Court orders to re-open Refugee Reception Offices in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The failure to open reception offices, mean that the department has essentially imposed undocumented status on law-abiding immigrants who want to regularise their stay but are unable to because their nearest office has been shut down, or because the over-burdened office they travel to has no capacity to attend to them.

This combined with the endemic corruption and inefficiency at all levels in our immigration system means that the fair and timeous finalisation of visa and asylum applications is almost impossible. This inefficiency is precisely what makes the government complicit in creating the issue of illegal immigration. Even those who seek to be legal-abiding residents in our communities are unable to if the relevant documentation is often lost, delayed or never forthcoming.

In addition, with this crisis plaguing reception offices and Home Affairs across the country, the government lacks progressive and efficient policies to attract tourists, skilled labour and capital as well as adequately trained personnel to implement those policies.

And lastly, we are failing to address the recurrent scourge of xenophobic violence that has devastating costs to the victims primarily, and to our economy and social cohesion more generally.

These challenges have serious consequences on our society and on the state and the blame lies solely at the feet of the ANC government.

Consequences of the ANC’s failing immigration system:

The failure of the national government to secure our borders by running our border management systems efficiently and the collapse of border security means that we do not have reliable numbers of immigrants entering the country.

Estimates have ranged from hundreds of thousands to millions. This lack of critical data on immigration means that the government cannot know or plan to provide services to our own citizens and to those immigrants who are here legally. It is impossible to make proper plans for service delivery with no reliable data on which to base decisions concerning budget allocations.

More than this, the ANC government does not know how many people are here illegally and how many people are placing an unaccounted for burden on service delivery.

The failure of Home Affairs to prevent, detect and correct undocumented migration means that many thousands of undocumented migrants have been living in South Africa for long periods of time. These are people who have families in South Africa, who work and have businesses here, and who make invaluable contributions to their communities. Mass deportation is not only fiscally prohibitive, but it may also very well be unjust to the immigrants in question, and harmful to their communities. The ANC government has no clear programme for fairly addressing this category of immigrants.

The failing immigration system also means that law enforcement agencies cannot effectively combat crime. Law abiding citizens and residents cannot feel safe in South Africa because we cannot be confident that law enforcement agencies have a handle of the scale of cross-border crime.

The DHA is notoriously corrupt. This corruption together with institutional inefficiencies in the asylum system makes it extremely difficult for those foreign nationals who are making genuine attempts to gain legitimate documentation. Until this is set back on the correct path, we will not attract investment, we will not attract skilled workers who want orderly lives and have no need to expose themselves to victimisation by our system.

The cumulative result of these many failures of immigration and border management is a perception amongst South Africans that immigrants, who may well be in South African legally, have entered the country illegally and take jobs or commit crime. We have seen the horrific results of these perceptions as unskilled, skilled, legal and illegal foreign nationals have become victims of prejudicial harassment, exploitation, violence and crime.

Having witnessed 24 years of ANC government failure on this critical national function, South Africans cannot afford to wait any longer for a progressive, efficient system capable of providing legal certainty to those who would contribute to our nation, and peace of mind to our people.

The ANC has proven that they are incapable of addressing and fixing the challenges of immigration and border security – leaving South African citizens and immigrants to bear the brunt.

South Africans have rightly lost faith in the ability and willingness of the ANC government to restore law and order, to keep us safe, and to put in place a policy framework that will make South Africa an attractive destination to the skilled labourers we desperately need.

South Africa needs leadership and change that can deal with the problems we face. The DA is the only party capable of fixing immigration and border security which has crumbled under the failing ANC. We have a plan which will bring law and order and protect the interests of those who reside and move within our country legally.

A DA-led national government will act immediately to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration and thereby create order by:

1. Strengthening our border security. Through proper control and order, we can create corruption-free and effective border security and control.

- This will be done through revamping and improving border management and governmental coordination.

- The DA will review the number and size of border posts and their management to increase points of legal entry and exit, prevent criminal activity and secure inter-border transregional business.

- Immigration officials and police officers will be trained and equipped to carry out their duties with diligence and integrity to ensure the best possible service to all foreign nationals entering this country.

- We must ensure that border management results in a continuous decline in cross-border crimes within our country and between the borders of our country and our neighbouring states.

2. Eradicating the corruption and inefficiency endemic to Home Affairs. This includes ensuring that the corruption and inefficiency endemic to DHA is eradicated. This will involve initiating a once-off investigation into corruption in the Department led by a reformed Hawks. Any officials found guilty of corruption and/or fraud will be blacklisted and prevented from working for any state agency or government department. To address inefficiency, the DA would enhance and improve the systems and technology, capacity, and competency levels through adequate training to officials at Home Affairs.

3. Ensure undocumented immigrants are regularised or assisted in leaving the country if they do not meet the criteria for remaining in the country. This requires innovative and strategic interventions to properly record and regularise undocumented foreign nationals already in the country, and actively protect, rescue and host refugees and those who have been trafficked, smuggled or abused within or across our borders.

We also believe that it is important to:

1. Assist, support and care for legitimate refugees and asylum seekers.

2. Attract foreign nationals with scarce skills to South Africa to help us grow our economy and create jobs.

- Skilled immigrants and business people must be welcome in our country. We need to attract highly skilled immigrants to fill our skills gaps and allow them to build businesses and create jobs. This will require a programme of action which must include educating communities about the benefits of integration and social cohesion with those from other countries. Xenophobia and discrimination cannot be allowed to hold back or hamper the progress of our economy and our people or harm economic integration and social unity in Africa.

- Foreign, skilled nationals will not only drive economic growth by filling the skills gap, but they can also enhance innovation, which is essential for small business development and the manufacturing sector.

- Skilled immigrants also bring a wealth of knowledge and contacts which could be immensely beneficial for local companies with sights on international expansion.

Conclusion

With this plan, we can approach regular and irregular migration more successfully by eliminating corruption, poor leadership and policy uncertainty.

The DA’s immigration plan will not only fix undocumented immigration and fix the dysfunctional DHA, but it will ultimately secure our borders. This will provide the protection of both South Africans and foreign nationals who live in our country. The issue of unchecked illegal immigration is a powder-keg matter. We no longer can afford the failing ANC’s lax border control, dysfunctional Home Affairs.

They must do so legally, and South Africans must be able to trust that the system is actively protecting them.

We are committed to building One South Africa for All – where South African citizens, residents, refugees and immigrants can come together and build towards a free, fair and diverse society with opportunities for all those who are here legally

Issued by Jacques Julius, DA Team One South Africa Spokesperson on Immigration, 15 October 2018