SA – illegal immigrants face deportation

In the wake of the death of a Zimbabwean refugee outside a South African Home Affairs office, many people queing for legal documents could be arrested and deported, the Cape Argus reports today.

A joint Home Affairs and police operation has been launched costing around R800 000. The new operation will target: “hotspots” of illegal immigrants, people already denied refugee status, marriages of convenience, foreign nationals engaged in criminal activities.

The push to deport illegal immigrants is known as Operation Umbrella, and was due to be launched at the beginning of this month but was delayed.

Specially trained police officers, all highly skilled, were being diverted from their normal duties to head the unit.

A spokesperson for Home Affairs, Jackie Mashapu told the Cape Argus: “the strategy is to deal with illegal immigrants, not refugees. Refugees are legal. They get the papers to confirm their status. We want to deal with illegal immigrants,” he said.

Mashapu went onto say: “When a person is arrested, that person will be questioned to determine his intentions (for being in SA). Each case will be dealth with on its merits.”

Mashapu was, however, unable to explain how refugees who had yet to obtain papers would be dealth with.

“A person is a refugee when he or she had been awarded refugee status by obtaining the correct papers and a refugee is therefore legally in the country.”

Cape Argus sources claim that R600 000 would be spent on deportation costs, and a further R200 000 on administration, such as overtime pay and travel expenses for visits in outlying areas such as George and Paarl.

 Already the Operation has been beset with problems. Some of those cited were the inability to find drivers for two trucks to drive illegal immigrants.

A refugee NGO, People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) has slammed the operation, saying that if the government intended deporting illegal immigrants, the group would mobilise the masses in protest action.

Another NGO, the Consortium for Refugee and Migration in SA (Cormsa) also criticised the initiative, accusing it of being unfair.

“There is no efficient and effective service in place that allows for refugees to apply for status, said spokesperson Duncan Breen.

He said the organisation called for the suspension of the campaign “until the department allows for free and fair access for all applicants. 

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