|January 21, 2011
More time to seek permits for Zimbabwean migrants
South Africa has given tens of thousands of undocumented Zimbabwean immigrants a reprieve after agreeing to extend the deadline for them to regularise their stay to March 31. Zimbabweans had been given up to December 31 last year to apply for business and work permits. But the process was delayed by Zimbabwe’s failure to clear a huge backlog of applications for passports.
It is estimated that most of the 1.5 million undocumented Zimbabweans do not have proper identification documents. Others acquired counterfeit South African identity documents and an amnesty had been extend to the Zimbabweans who returned the fake documents. “There will be no deportations until the end of March,” Mr Ricky Naidoo for the South African Department of Home Affairs told the media. “We are trying our best to complete the adjudication process in the next few weeks.”
South Africa said it only received 275.000 applications for permits between September 1 and the December 31 deadline, raising fears that thousands of undocumented immigrants would be deported. The government had stopped deporting Zimbabweans in April 2010 on humanitarian grounds. Before the moratorium, South Africa was deporting an average of 10.000 Zimbabweans every month. Undocumented Zimbabweans have been crossing to South Africa in search of jobs ever since but the tide increased dramatically in the last decade following the economic collapse under Robert Mugabe’s rule.
Meanwhile, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says it is implementing contingency plans to handle an influx of Zimbabwean deportees as South Africa pushes with plans to remove the undocumented immigrants.