Tag Archive | Morotaba

Immigrant visa problems dominate debate

sam mototabaNorthern agriculture seen as visa defaulter…….

sent to clients 15 June…..Sam Morotoba, DDG of Public Employment Services, Department of Labour (DOL), told parliamentarians that it was DOL’s view that visa immigration policies for South Africa must involve cutting down on the flow of unskilled immigrants into the country.

From the nature of the debate, it was evident that DOL was more concerned on the creation of jobs for South Africans and not the issue of visa granting to specialist cases, a fact which gained the support of most  MPs.

Sam Morotaba said that amongst the massive inflow of undocumented persons crossing what is some 4,000kms of border there were those that did find work, had no entry visa and were totally exploited in the process. Most of the border was totally “porous”, he said.

More facts emerged during the particular Labour Portfolio Committee meeting when both DOL and the Department of Home Affairs (DOHA) jointly made presentations on immigration policy.   The practical aspects of the issue of work permits to foreigners, normally called “temporary visas” were discussed.

Not asylum seekers

Over 70% of the non-documented labour problem occurred in Limpopo Province, according to DOL figures.    It was also shown that there were approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants in the country at present, whether they were working or not.   Refugees from war and refugees seeking asylum were a completely different issue, Morotaba said, and they represented a much smaller number, .

sa border beit bridgeSpecially conducted “raids” on farms and businesses in the Northern areas and which were carried out by the few inspectorate staff that were available to DOL were frustrated by the advent of the cell-phone.    Messages were simply sent ahead by immigrant employees advising that a “raid” was in progress and workers who had no documentation but wanted the work simply went into hiding.

Some employers told their employees not to come to work when appointments with DOL inspectors were made. “Raids”, in conjunction with South African Police Services,were extremely difficult to undertake unless the matter was serious enough to consider that a possible breach of the law had taken place.

Traffickers

The problem was exacerbated, said Morotaba, by traffickers that postured as labour “sellers” and went from farm to farm offering cheap labour in the form of immigrants without documentation looking for work.    Inspectors had resorted to “raids” on Friday “paydays” and also at night.  Employers were generally unhelpful; gaining access to farms was difficult; and the success rate in finding illegal immigrants was therefore low, said DOL.

Farmers remained the major culprits, it became apparent – an issue which has been the main theme of chairperson Lumka Yengeni of the Portfolio Committee on Labour for a number of years.

DOL said that there were more than five million legal immigrants in the country and the laws of South Africa demanded that all workers be protected, whether illegal or not, in terms of the Constitution. This had to be borne in mind, they said.

Desperate people

However, underpaying desperate people who had no temporary visa and housing them in filthy conditions, was farm labourersquite a different matter and was a contravention of all international principles. This was the issue facing DOL.

Also, some companies and employers simply did not want to test the local market for labour suitability or could not be bothered to try, DOL said, and also probably also wanted to avoid UIF participation, collection and payment and few farmers got involved in the cost of skills training.

Home Affairs briefing

The main agenda of the portfolio committee meeting in question was the subject of the nature of relationships between DOHA and DOL. Also their observations were requested on the current position with regard to delays in issuing visas and DOHA was asked to give a technical explanation of where the visa issuance process was headed.

DOHA was represented Acting Chief Director for Visas, Home Affairs, Modiri Matthews, supported by Ronnie Marhule. Modiri Matthews said his department was mandated by the Immigration Act to deport those unlawfully in the country.

visa stampHe made it clear that the Immigration Act stated that a temporary residence visa could be granted only for the categories of Study, Treaty, Business, Crew, Medical Treatment, Relatives, Work, Retired Persons, Exchange and Asylum.

It was only when a permanent resident permit was issued that the holder was entitled to live in South Africa on a permanent basis, with all the rights and obligations of a citizen except the right to vote and use an SA passport. This was standard in most countries, he said.

Visa classification

There were three kinds of visas – Corporate, General Work Visa and a Business Visa.   Most farming entities and general business fell under the category of corporate visas, where a requested number of foreigners was needed by an employer.

Proof had to be supplied that despite a diligent search, the applicant could not find suitable SA citizens or permanent residents to occupy the positions; the job description had to be given; and it had to be conditional that salary and benefits paid would not be less than standard agreed emoluments.

Home Affairs confirmed that feedback indicated that the current system is too cumbersome due to DHA’s lack of capacity to handle the volume of applications; the fact that “standard operating procedures” within the department were ambiguous; that many officials were insufficiently trained and turnaround around times were too slow.

Speeding things up

Modiri Matthews promised parliamentarians that new electronic systems were in place to ensure a more secure system of interaction between DHA, DOL and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – the latter being responsible for issuing the quota or number of visas issued, all of which had expiry dates. The plan envisaged is that once the permission is issued by DTI, for DHA to take 30 days and DOL no more than 8 weeks to process a visa request andvisa with hand DHA to issue or decline.

When asked by MPs whether or not Home Affairs had a tracking system on visas granted but which had expired, whether working or not, Modiri Matthews responded that they had and the number of expired visas currently stood in the area of 30,000, which were on the tracking system.

Waiting period

Present at the meeting were also Ronnie Marhule, Acting Chief Director of Permits and Visas and Phindiwe Mbhele, Director for Corporate Permits and in question time, Angie Loliwe of the ANC complained to them that if the application were with DTI for even only 2 weeks, then the DOL process was added for thirty days and with Home Affairs adding about 8 weeks, there was not really any possibility of waiting less than three months for any one application to be processed at the very best. This was too long, she said.

Both Directors stated that there were “pressure points” mainly related to capacity to deal with the volumes of applications and this mainly affected “corporate” visas to farm workers. They told members of the Labour Committee that they were trying to deal with this, especially where urgent business applications were concerned.

They reminded MPs that with nearly 300,000 illegal immigrants, systems such as an “expired document” process was a time consuming business and DOL “had their work already cut out with the farming situation and inspections.”

One track discussion

Ninety per cent of the meeting time was spent discussing farm labour problems in the light of ANC problems with illegal labour entry to the North. Modiri Matthews said that there were only 11 centres in South Africa handling visa applications. There was a new office in Sandton, Johannesburg, he said, specifically geared to business needs.

To the irritation of some of the ANC members it was confirmed that the offices in East London and Port Elizabeth had been closed.   There was only one office for the whole of KwaZulu-Natal.   However, Matthews said there was was a specific plan to open two new business offices -presumed to be Cape Town and Durban.

Previous articles on category subject
Home Affairs gets tough on expired visas – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs gives reasons for visa changes – ParlyReportSA
Agri-SA gives views on minimum wage – ParlyReportSA

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