Complete overhaul of SA’s migration system on the cards

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi announced the publication of the White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection on Sunday, 12 November.

The White Paper advocates for a complete overhaul of South Africa’s migration system.

Key proposals

The White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection aims to provide a framework to guide the granting of residency and citizenship to foreign nationals, as well as the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa.

“There have been consistent loud voices calling for effective policy measures and legislative interventions dealing with migration in South Africa”, said Minister Motsoaledi.

The proposals for migration reform in the White Paper include the following:

1. Overhaul of citizenship, immigration, and refugee policies

The policy framework proposed in the White Paper is intended to replace three existing national policies – the Citizenship Act, the Immigration Act, and the Refugees Act.

“In practice, these pieces of legislation are not in harmony with each other. Piecemeal amendments were made without any policy framework whatsoever,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

The Minister also said the Citizenship Act and Births and Deaths Registration Act must be repealed in their entirety and be included in the single legislation dealing with citizenship, immigration, and refugee protection.

The intention is to remove contradictions and loopholes in the paths towards citizenship, as is now the case with the three pieces of legislation. The criteria for granting any form of citizenship “must be strictly in accordance with the law”.

“A proper register should be kept for all persons granted citizenship by naturalisation by the Minister. The register must be tabled every year in Parliament by the Minister,” Motsoaledi said.

2. Review and/or withdraw from two international agreements on refugee protection

The White Paper proposes that the government of South Africa must review and/or withdraw from the 1951 United Nationals Refugees Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, with a view to acceding to them with reservations like other countries.

According to Minister Motsoaledi, South Africa acceded to these international agreements in 1996 without a clear policy on migration, including refugee protection. That meant the government did not make reservations and exceptions permitted in terms of international law when it joined the agreements.

Other policy framework proposals

In addition to the key proposals already discussed, the White Paper proposes the following:

  • A review of the Border Management Authority Act to align it with the new immigration and citizenship policy framework.
  • The establishment of an Advisory Board, which comprises representatives of the Departments of Trade, Industry and Competition, Labour and Employment, Tourism, South African Police Service, South African Revenue Service, Education, International Relations and Cooperation, Defence and Military Veterans, and Director-General of the DH
  • The Advisory Board must also comprise representatives of organised labour, including four individuals on the grounds of expertise in administration, regulatory matters or immigration law, control, adjudication and enforcement, appointed by the Minister
  • Policy and legislative interventions to tighten the procedures and strengthen the monitoring capacity by introducing integrated IT systems capable of flagging fraudulent activities in the issuing of visas, identity documents, marriage certificates, and passports
  • Awarding wide statutory powers to the existing Anti-Corruption Unit within the Department of Home Affairs
  • Members of the Anti-Corruption Unit should be seconded from the South African Police Service
  • New legislation must be introduced to strengthen the powers of immigration officers and Inspectorate and make continuing training compulsory. The majority of members of the Inspectorate must have legal qualifications and policing experience.

The Department of Home Affairs invites public comments on the White Paper

The Department of Home Affairs has invited the public to make comments to enrich the White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection. The deadline for submissions is 19 January 2024.

Download the White Paper below: