South Africa: Foreign Nationals Become 'Undesirables' During Lockdown


The closure of Home Affairs' visa and refugee offices during lockdown has had widespread consequences for foreign nationals in South Africa. Many have now become 'overstayers', declared 'undesirable people'.

As the national lockdown continues, the government is easing restrictions so that certain sectors of the economy and certain state offices can reopen and people can move more freely.

Among the government offices that remain closed are the Department of Home Affairs' (DHA) Visa Facilitation Services and the Refugee Reception Offices which serve foreign nationals in South Africa. The closure of these offices had legal repercussions for the status of this particular group of people. In fact, those whose visas or permits expired during the lockdown were not able to renew them and thus ran the risk of becoming "overstayers".

In principle, foreign nationals (except recognised refugees) with expired visas or permits usually become "overstayers" and are thus declared "illegal foreigners". As illegal foreigners, they are further declared "undesirable people" in terms of section 30(1)(h) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, as amended by Act 13 of 2011. Undesirable people must leave South Africa and are banned from coming back.

Asylum-seekers can also be declared "undesirable people". The Refugees Act...

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