Tough new laws for refugees in South Africa

 ·6 Jan 2020

Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has gazetted the Refugees Amendment Act, introducing a host of new rules for refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa.

The new legislation – which came into effect from 1 January – clamps down on these foreigners in a number of ways including where they may move and what activities they may partake in.

This includes:

  • No refugee or asylum seeker may participate in any political activity or campaign in furtherance of any political party or political interests in South Africa. Doing so will lead to the ‘cessation’ (withdrawal) of refugee status;
  • Any person whose refugee status has been withdrawn shall be dealt with as an illegal foreigner in terms of the provisions of the Immigration Act;
  • Any person who intends to apply for asylum must declare his or her intention, while at a port of entry, before entering the Republic and provide his or her biometrics and other relevant data as required, including fingerprints, photograph, date of birth and age etc;
  • An ‘asylum seeker visa’ will determine how long the refugee is allowed to remain in the country, what work they are allowed to do and where/if they may go to school;
  • The minister may issue an order to immediately detain and remove any asylum seeker or refugee named as a threat to the republic.

Clamping down on businesses

At the end of 2019 Employment and Labour minister, Thulas Nxesi, said that his department will clamp down on employers not complying with the country’s labour laws by unlawfully hiring foreign workers.

Nxesi said that the influx and employment of displaced foreign nationals in the country was not of their making and that the situation was ‘getting out of hand’.

“We cannot in this day-and-age continue with the employment of foreign nationals, and think there will be peace if you are going to take low-level jobs of low-skilled people and give it to displaced people,” he said.

The minister said the intention of employing displaced people was a deliberate act by unscrupulous employers to pay them ‘starvation wages’.

“The intention is to employ displaced people and pay them starvation wages, make them to work long hours, make them to sleep on top of the shops.

“The intention is very simple – it is designed to boost profits through cheap labour,” said the minister.

This follows confirmation that the Department of Small Business Development is working on a new law that will restrict foreigners from working in certain sections of the economy.

Small business development minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that the legislation in line with other countries – such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe – that have regulations specifying the sectors where foreign nationals are not allowed to participate.

Ntshavheni said that South Africans have a penchant to hire other South Africans, and that locals will take up the chance for employment if more opportunities are offered to them.

“We are not only introducing legislation to say which sectors are restricted to South Africans but we are also establishing support mechanisms for those South African who are operating in these sectors,” she said.

Read: Foreigner investors may be safe from South Africa’s land expropriation – for now

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