The plight of undocumented immigrants, exacerbated by crisis and upheaval, is cause for great concern.
This is according to Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga, who said the recent fires that engulfed parts of Plastic View informal settlement had once again brought to the fore the unresolved issues of illegal immigration and national government’s inaction in this regard, reports Pretoria East Rekord.
He said what was abundantly clear from this tragic incident was that the home affairs department was failing dismally to address this longstanding challenge that had seen xenophobic attacks, loss of life, exploitation and a fight for limited resources such as employment and housing.
In a letter to Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, Msimanga stated that the department had a responsibility to facilitate and simplify the issuance of permanent and temporary residence permits to those who were entitled to them, and to detect and deal lawfully and decisively with undocumented foreign nationals.
“The continued violation of immigration laws is an affront to the rule of law of this country, a precedence that the Home Affairs Department is allowing to perpetuate.
“While we sympathise with the undocumented foreign nationals, we have an obligation to first provide services to South African citizens.”
He revealed that the majority of Plastic View residents were undocumented immigrants and thus fell outside the prescripts of the housing code.
“This has serious knock-on implications for the Tshwane metro and Gauteng Provinces’ programme of action to provide housing opportunities to our people. The fact is that the metro has a housing backlog that stretches back 20 years that needs to be diligently engaged.”
“The process is further exacerbated by prohibitive legislation making it difficult to discharge evictions throughout the city. The department’s failure to address the issue of unlawful immigration further compounds a set of circumstances that is already not ideal for the democratic project and the realisation of the Bill of Rights.”
Msimanga pleaded for assistance to deal with the problem of undocumented foreign nationals.
“It is no secret that the poor management of illegal immigration affects all countries and places great strain on diplomatic relations.”
He further added that the housing and human settlements space wasn’t the only realm in which illegal immigration posed a problem.
“This is true of the overstretched resources across all sectors of local government and its direct ability to discharge its constitutional mandate to provide services.”
“The City is open to people from across the continent and the world, but the national government is duty-bound to ensure that all people enter, live and leave the country legally.”
He said those who qualified to be within our borders must be processed and provided with papers timeously.
“Until such time that the Department of Home Affairs gets its head out of the sand and addresses this serious issue, Tshwane, and indeed the rest of South Africa, will continue to deal with the crisis of undocumented foreign nationals,” said Msimanga.