The Department of Home Affairs briefed the Committee on challenges that the Department had faced with issuing of permits with a view to proposing amendments to the Immigration Act 2002 (Act No. 13 of 2002). It highlighted that the main purpose of the presentation was to emphasise that these challenges had also lead to backlogs incurred by the Department. It mentioned that these challenges could be overcome by achieving the short term and long-term goals that the Department could adopt.
The Department explained the history of travel movement in
The Department emphasised that since
The Department then addressed their short-term proposals amendments to the Immigration Act. The Department mentioned that there were many types of visas. It wanted to revise policies and procedures for issuing visas and permits. It also said that the removal of immigration practitioners from the Act would greatly reduce the activities of fraud.
The Department addressed issues of economic migrants and asylum seekers, and the consultation of stakeholders in mitigating further problems. Asylum seekers would need, before the expiration of a 14 days temporary permit, to appear before the asylum centres.
Members agreed that the Department had presented good and well-thought out proposals to minimise the problems of backlogs. Members asked whether the short-term plan of removing immigration practitioners from the Act was indeed the right step, as immigration practitioners knew their job and also shared the load that Home Affairs experienced nationally. Members suggested that monitoring immigration practitioners might help in asserting that protocols were being followed and that those practitioners who conformed to the law were not punished because of the malpractice of a minority. Members expressed their concern with paternity tests and the financial implications of such measures to the Department. Members also agreed with the Department about proving the validity of a marriage is true and not giving permits to applicants who claimed to be married but hardly even know each other. Members asked how big a backlog the Department had incurred.
Challenges encountered in the issuance of Permits: Department of Home Affairs (DHA)
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, Department of Home Affairs said that the Department wished to provide proposals to address challenges in the permitting regime through amendments to the Immigration Act 2002 (Act No. 13 of 2002). He explained that his Department issued many types of visas and permits. He detailed the various categories. He noted that the legislation allowed foreign nationals to change their status within
Mr Apleni said that the Act’s provision for immigration practitioners resulted in fraudulent access to these visas and added to the backlog of the Department. He stressed that seeing the applicant at Home Affairs was to be recommended. He emphasised that DNA testing on children/parents would help prevent fraudulent applications.
The Chairperson admitted that there was a sensitive balance to be struck in terms of meeting with the United Nations (UN) obligations and those of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) said that he thought that the Department had a very good approach. He further said that a review of recent oversight might be a good place to begin. He highlighted the issue of appeals as being a concern since there were only three members active in the appeals board. The amount of appeals that needed to pass the board must be large. He wanted to know how many appeals the board had to tackle and what the remedial plan for the filing system was. He also asked about making the board work better so as to synchronise efficiency.
Ms M Maunye (ANC) said that the Department was going in the right direction. She, like the Department, wanted to support the idea of abolishing immigration practitioners. She wondered if there was a merit system in place. She then supported the DNA test in respect of applicants’ children in
Ms H Makhuba (IFP) welcomed the proposals of the Department. She agreed with Mr Apleni’s remark about there being too many visas and permits, as this creates problems. She advised that there should be ways of controlling this matter. She also added that immigration practitioners made more work for Home Affairs and that the removal of them in the Act would lessen backlogs in the future. She agreed that convenience marriages caused “innocent” marriages to suffer as it became harder to differentiate themt.
Ms T Gasebonwe (ANC) said that the Act needed to stipulate that DNA testing was required when adopting children. She also asked how adoptive children would be handled when taken in by families.
Ms P Maduna (ANC) brought up an issue of constitutions. She further went asked the Director General about the example of a spouse married in the Democratic Republic of Congo and who, upon residing in South Africa, was asked to remarry.
Mr Apleni addressed the issue of immigration practitioners first and said that this was still an idea that was being looked into and this would still be raised. He further went on to say that the Appeals Board needed to be reviewed and the expectation of its role assessed. In the instance of adoptive children, genuine court documentation needed to be produced at Home Affairs to avoid fraud and problems with issuance of new documents. Marriage was one of the major problems and the people getting married would need to come into the offices in person to have their pictures and fingerprints taken so that, if the process failed, evidence could be produced easily. Mr Apleni said that marriages were not conducted only at Home Affairs and that the Department was in the process of trying to close gaps.
Mr J McKay, Immigration Services, Department of Home Affairs, said that in the Congolese example all information and facts would be necessary in order to help in giving good advice. He discussed amended legislation concerning refugees. He said that there had been a new appointment of a chair of the appeals board and a further five members added to the board to help in implementing the amendments of 2008. He said that applications should be lodged in person at the Department so that all documents were accounted for.
Ms M Maunye (ANC) asked whether eye witnesses were still required to accompany a couple. She also suggested that sound proof of identity be required.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) wanted to know how many appeals there had been to date and about the time frame for the preparation of the filing system by the company to whom the work had been outsourced.
Mr Apleni replied that he would check if the requirements for witnesses were still in place.
Mr McKay said that backlogs needed to be checked because the number was large. He had also said in the last week’s presentation that there was a figure mentioned for the backlog at the Refugee Centre. He further went on to say that the filing system would be completed by the end of this financial year.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) asked what the backlog in resident permits was.
Mr J McKay said that the Department would provide figures in due course.
The Chairperson agreed that accurate information must be given and not estimates as research was necessary. He went on to say that input from members of the public and stakeholders was necessary.
Meeting was adjourned.
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