130 000 Zim immigrants get permits

More than 130 000 Zimbabweans have been issued permits to stay in South Africa, Pretoria said on Thursday, adding it hoped to wrap up a special project to document illegal Zimbabwean immigrants next month.

Department of Home Affairs deputy director general Jackie McKay told reporters that it had finished adjudicating 273 514 applications for permits while issuing 133 810 permits.

A paltry 2 248 applications remain to be adjudicated out of the total 275 762 received at the end of December 2010, the deadline that the department gave undocumented Zimbabweans to submit applications for permits.

MacKay said the department was on course to finish adjudicating remaining applications by July 31 and would use the month of August to resolve outstanding matters regarding applications already adjudicated but with no permits issued for one reason or another.

“We will conclude adjudication by 31 July 2011 and we will finalise all outstanding matters in August,” said McKay, adding that department was looking to approving as much as 99% of applications after it significantly lowered the bar for Zimbabweans to qualify for permits under the special documentation project.

South Africa, which has Africa’s most prosperous economy, is home to millions of foreign nationals, many of them living illegally and seeking better opportunities from failed economies like Zimbabwe.

Locals often complain that the immigrants steal their jobs or lower working standards by readily accepting below market wages, while also overloading government social services and committing crime.

An outbreak of xenophobic violence in 2008 left at least 62 foreigners dead and thousands of others displaced, leaving foreign investors unsettled and South Africa’s image as one of the more tolerant countries in the world shattered.

There have been several sporadic outbreaks of xenophobic attacks since the main violence of 2008. But security forces have been quick to move in to quash the violence and protect foreigners.

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