SOUTH AFRICA-ZIMBABWE: Deadline for arrests extended again
South African troops stop illegal migrants from Zimbabwe
JOHANNESBURG, 14 January 2011 (IRIN) - Zimbabweans now have until the end of July 2011 to obtain documentation legalizing their presence in South Africa following a meeting between Department of Home Affairs Officials and members of the Zimbabwean Stakeholder Forum on 12 January.
A statement released by the SA Home Affairs department confirmed that undocumented Zimbabweans could not be arrested before 1 August.
More than 275,000 Zimbabweans submitted applications for work, business or study permits by the end of last year in a bid to regularize their stay in South Africa before the end of a 17-month moratorium on deportations.
Human rights organizations fear that thousands of Zimbabweans who have migrated to South Africa to escape the social and economic problems that have rocked their country in recent years, could face deportation
when the moratorium ends.
The Home Affairs department recently announced that no deportations would take place until the end of March
2011 to allow time to process the applications. Only about 23,000 have so far been approved, with nearly 221,000 still under adjudication.
However, the Zimbabwean authorities have been unable to keep up with the demand for passports and other documents needed to process the applications. After Wednesday’s meeting it was decided to extend the period for processing documentation until 30 June, after which applicants will have a month to collect their permits from Home Affairs.
According to the statement, the Department will initiate “a sustained engagement with the Zimbabwean government to expedite the issuance of passports”, starting with a meeting between the Zimbabwean Ambassador and the Consul-General early next week.
The statement also noted that lists of applicants requiring passports were being provided to the Zimbabwean Embassy on a daily basis.
“We are happy the moratorium on deportations has been extended,” Gabriel Shuma, Director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, told IRIN. “The South African government has shown it's very keen to assist Zimbabweans to have a modicum of dignity in this country, but we’re not happy that our own government has been reluctant to assist its citizens.”