Ladies and gentlemen of the media, welcome to the Department of Home Affairs' second last media briefing of the year. In this regard, Minister Naledi Pandor has now confirmed her availability to address the last briefing next week. Details thereof will be communicated to you timeously.
Ladies and gentlemen, our briefing this week will focus on among others:
Festive Season plans for Ports of entry
Refugee Reception Centres
As South Africa readies itself to host the African Cup Of Nations (AFCON) tournament from 19 January to 10 February 2013, it is anticipated, as was the case with the 2010 Soccer World Cup, that soccer lovers and spectators from around the African continent will once again visit our shores to witness what promises to be a spectacular event.
Accordingly, the government of the Republic of South Africa is committed to ensuring the successful hosting of AFCON 2013. In this regard, the Department of Home Affairs is required to implement certain guarantees that are relevant to its mandate in order to ensure the efficient, secure and effective facilitation of the movement of the members of African football fraternity into our country during this period.
These include mainly the following issues:
The issuance of visas to a broad range of Persons (including Confederation of African Football (CAF) Delegation, Commercial Affiliates, media representatives and foreign visitors.
Issuance of work permits to the CAF delegation, commercial affiliates and media representatives
guarantee of "priority treatment" for various competing national teams, and CAF delegation at our ports of entry
Working with a variety of stakeholders, the department is following the same approach as during the 2010 Soccer World Cup but the planning has been customised to meet the unique requirements of AFCON as contained in South Africa's guarantees and the commitments that were made to CAF and the Local Organising Committee (LOC). In this regard, we will rely on systems that are part of the legacy of the 2012 FIFA World cup such as the Movement Control System to assist us in meeting our objectives.
With regard to the issuance of visas, the department will grant visa waivers to the CAF delegation, including national teams and other members of the soccer federations, as not all African countries are exempted from visa requirements to enter South Africa.
A CAF letter will be used as a form of accreditation for entry and departure at ports of entry. In addition, dedicated lanes will be created at ports of entry to facilitate the swift movement of the CAF delegation and spectators, specifically at O.R Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports, Lanseria, Beitbridge, Lebombo, Maserubridge, Ficksburgbridge , Kopfontein and Oshoek. Spectators are, however, required to apply for visitors visas in line with normal visa requirements.
We have also taken some steps to strengthen the department's operations throughout the AFCON period including the deployment of additional Home Affairs staff to South African diplomatic missions in Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, DRC and Nigeria in order to assist in the swift issuance of visas and work permits.
Furthermore, we will strengthen the department's response units in five provinces, in order to increase our capacity to manage illegal immigration and ensure swift response to emergencies involving illegal migrants.
We will also increase and enhance the capacity for an effective and efficient 24 hour Operational Centre to support ports of entry, travellers, airlines, CAF Delegation and other agencies seeking any information from the department. Nearer kick off time, the department will also extend working hours at key ports of entry as well as increase the number of Home Affairs officers working at these offices during this period.
Festive season plans for ports of entry
While plans are afoot for the AFCON, the department is also gearing itself up to deal with high volumes of travellers at all our ports of entry during the festive season, taking effect from next week 15 December
The plans include additional capacity, particularly in our land borders which will see the deployment of over 300 Home Affairs staff members and extension of working hours, with some borders operation for 24 hours and others increasing their operation hours to 12 midnight. This plan will run from 15 December 2012 to 19 February 2013, to accommodate the opening of schools and AFCON.
The targeted borders are Maseru Bridge, Beit Bridge, Lebombo, Oeshoek and Kopfontein, which turn to register high volumes of people and goods in the festive season. Special arrangement will be made to process, trucks and buses some few kilometres away from the Lebombo border, which sees over 30 000 migrant workers crossing, especially just before Christmas and after the New Year.
It is important to note that these plans will be carried out jointly with the South Africa Police Services (SAPS) and South African Receiver of Revenue (SARS) and in collaboration with our counterparts from countries that share borders with South Africa. This is done in order to facilitate the smooth movement of people and goods across our borders during this time.
Let me take this opportunity on behalf of Minister Naledi Pandor and the Department of Home Affairs to wish all those who will be travelling in the festive season a safe journey and to be vigilant and safe on the roads and arrive alive. We also urge people to keep their travelling and Identity documents safe at all times.
Refugee Reception Centres
The department is in a process of building a Refugee Reception Centre next to the Lebombo border, in Limpopo province in line with our strategy to establish refugee reception centres closer to the ports of entry.
This move would bring services closer to asylum seekers and refugees who are fleeing from persecution in their countries of origin and in search of refuge in South Africa. In this regard, the National Treasury has allocated funds to the Department for the implementation of these plans.
A Refugee Reception Centre in Lebombo border would enable asylum seekers to access services upon entry into South Africa. At the moment, asylum seekers and refugees have to travel across the country in order to lodge their claim at a Refugee Reception Centre within the stipulated 14 days, when this could be done nearer to the ports of entry.
We have taken note of accusation published against the Department of Home Affairs last Sunday alleging that the department was considering building "refugee camps" nearer to the ports of entry. We reject this accusation as being totally unfounded and out of line with government policy on asylum seeker and refugee management.
To this end the Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor said that "The department is opposed to the encampment of asylum seekers, who seek refuge from all forms of persecution, upon our shores. Indeed, our country's response to the management of asylum seekers, having ratified the relevant United Nations conventions and protocols, is governed by international law."
This position is further elaborated upon in our founding affidavit submitted to the Western Cape High Court in a matter brought against the department by Scalabrini, an non-governmental organisation, asking the court to compel the department to continue to carry out services to refugees and asylum seekers following the closure of the Cape Town refugee reception office early this year.