Finance Minister, Mr Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech provided no indication of increased support for migration issues in South Africa.
Of the R33 billion reserves that were created, the Department of Defence was assigned extra funds of R1.3 billion in 2011/12, rising to R2 billion in 2013/14. These funds are to be used for “safeguarding the country’s borders”, and to “upgrade and maintain border facilities and equipment”.
No extra funding was given to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), despite the major problems that are evident at Refugee Reception Offices (RRO) across South Africa, as well as with the processing of permits by DHA. One of the major challenges experienced by refugees is the non-issuing of identity and travel documents. This has negative impacts on the lives of refugees and requires improved human and systemic resources in order to be addressed. Addressing these issues will afford full protection to refugees. Currently many refugees have been waiting for more than one year for the issuing of new identity and travel documents and this has not happened.
However, it is not just an issue of manpower, in some cases RROs frequently fail to adhere to procedures as set out in the Refugee Act and its accompanying regulations, which denies the rights of potential asylum seekers and refugees. This leaves many asylum seekers without documentation, and leaves then vulnerable to arrest, detention and deportation, despite having valid asylum claims. This problem is systemic in nature, and requires investments in the proper management of systems at RROs, as well as having a clearer migration policy.
However, it must be said that providing more funding to deal with these problems would not help unless DHA improves the functioning of bureaucratic structures that provide services. A lack of migration policy also makes it difficult to budget effectively, as there is no over-arching vision to guide policy and budgets.
The funding for border control reflects an increasingly protectionist trend of keeping non-nationals out, but this attitude, together with a lack of coherent policy decisions, is resulting in the routine abuse of human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
As highlighted in the budget speech, the creation of jobs for South Africans remains of paramount importance, but this cannot be used as a reason to ‘keep people out’. Job creation for South Africans and an increased flow of migrants are not mutually exclusive, rather they can be complimentary. Migration can have many positive benefits for South Africa, including an increased skills base, increased contribution to the economy, and the creation of jobs for South Africans, if it is handled correctly.
It is commendable that the President in his State of the Nation address indicated the urgency to fulfil the vacant public service posts. However, with regards to issues related to migration until a coherent migration policy is in place, it will be very difficult for increased funding to have the desired impact.
Parliamentary Liaison Officer
Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa