Zimbabweans will lose out in amnesty – DA

daJOHANNESBURG South Africas biggest opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA), last week warned of dire consequences for Zimbabweans in the neighbouring country who will fail to get permits after returning their asylum application papers.

South Africa gave Zimbabweans working, studying and doing business in that country up to December 31 for them to apply for free permits, after which the neighbouring country will resume deporting those who would have failed to formalise their stay.

While there has been no direct ordering of people to return their asylum applications, most Zimbabwean economic migrants who have been using asylum permits have in some instances been advised to return them and apply for the permits, whose average life-span is four years.

The DA however, says some Zimbabwean refugees, whom it said were suffering the brunt of the Department of Home Affairs notoriously dismissive attitude towards the law and towards human rights, would be adversely affected by the process.

Zimbabweans applying for temporary residence permits are being forced to forgo their status as asylum seekers. Thus, if their applications for permits are unsuccessful, they will be classified as illegal immigrants and will face deportation, said DA

Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, Annette Lovemore.

The DA said that the Home Affairs requirement was in contrast to a landmark court ruling – Dabone and Others v Minister of Home Affairs and Another, 2008, in which Justice Blignaut of the Cape Provincial High Court ruled that, The Respondents will henceforth (and in relation to pending applications) no longer require that an asylum seeker cancel his or her asylum seeker temporary permit issued in terms of Section 22 of the Refugees Act 130/1998 in order to apply for permanent residence in accordance with Section 26 and/or Section 27 of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 …

The Department will henceforth (and in relation to pending applications) process applications by asylum seekers or refugees for temporary residence permits or for the amendment thereof, without requiring the production of a valid passport by any person applying for such permit.

After that judgment, the Department of Home Affairs issued an internal circular instructing compliance with the above judgment on 18 April 2008.

Lovemore said Zimbabweans have already been forced to incur enormous cost and inconvenience in order to provide their passports, mandatory for those making applications for the permits, adding that the South African government was, in addition to ignoring a court order, also ignoring its own internal instructions, to the detriment of many thousands of people.

Lawyers for Human Rights have received reports of Zimbabweans going to police stations for information on the amnesty process, and being summarily charged and arrested for being in the country illegally, said the DA official.

The DA has already raised questions for written reply by the Minister in this regard. South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and as such, the country has undertaken to respect the human rights of refugees and of those seeking asylum in our country.

South Africa continues to be the country that receives the largest number of asylum applications in the world, with 222 000 applications submitted in 2009 alone and the DA says that the task of managing the refugee influx in a manner that neither compromises human rights nor threatens national security, was enormous, with clear policy and legislation imperatives.

South Africa has no migration policy in place, and, while it has legislation in place, the Department of Home Affairs far too often blatantly ignores this law, and, in doing so, blatantly ignores human rights entitlements.

The DA will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to pressure the Minister and her Department to place their commitment to international instruments of protection, to the rule of law and to national security at the forefront of their agenda.

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