FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 5 MAY 2009
The Black Sash welcomes the government’s decision to allow Zimbabwean citizens to enter South Africa on a free 90-day visitor's permit and apply to do casual work during their stay. We have been calling for progressive policies to be put in place - that take cognisance of our particular location in Africa and the inevitability of the large-scale immigration of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants into our country - since the outbreak of Xenophobic violence in May last year.
Despite the formation of the unity government in Zimbabwe earlier this year, the country still faces serious challenges. We believe the visa waiver will go a long way to alleviate the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans who are still struggling to make ends meet. We welcome the fact that our Zimbabwean neighbours can now travel between our two countries without fear of arrest and deportation. We also hope that their new legal status will protect them from exploitation by employers who we urge to comply with the basic conditions of employment. Furthermore, we acknowledge the fact that this policy will alleviate some of the major backlogs being experienced at the Department of Home Affairs, providing relief to asylum seekers from other countries.
The Black Sash calls for speedy implementation of this policy decision and for the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that bureaucratic hurdles do not frustrate the process. We further call on government to ensure that all foreign nationals residing in South Africa be issued with documents as soon as possible to ensure that they have access to basic human rights that will promote their independence and their ability to contribute within our society.
The Black Sash also recommends that a forum be established whereby government and civil society can together oversee the structures and processes put in place, and ensure they collectively promote the effective and long-term reintegration of displaced people into safe and developing communities.