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individuals will be unable to access the Zimbabwe documentation
process before the deadline
Migration Studies Programme, Wits University
As the deadline
for the Zimbabwean documentation process rapidly approaches, the
Forced Migration Studies Programme (FMSP) has identified shortcomings
at various Gauteng Department of Home Affairs offices. FMSP's
research reveals a process that is not running effectively, despite
claims to the contrary by Home Affairs.
from FMSP's survey of applicants queuing outside the Pretoria,
Harrison Street, and Market Street offices highlight the experiences
of 366 applicants at these offices between 22 October and 3 December.
the survey results, over 90 percent of respondents had a Zimbabwean
passport prior to the start of this process. This means that individuals
who applied for passports after the announcement of the documentation
programme were largely excluded from the process at least through
the beginning of December.
the survey revealed that half of those applying for the permits
are asylum seekers, while most of the remaining applicants are undocumented.
According to Roni Amit, senior researcher with the Forced Migration
Studies Programme, there were approximately 400,000 Zimbabwean asylum
applicants in South Africa between 2008 and 2010.
She added, "Assuming that many of these individuals will apply
for these permits, and that an additional number of undocumented
Zimbabweans will also apply, this suggests a serious problem with
the numbers. Between 20 September and 1 December, Home Affairs was
able to accept 99, 435 applications. Yet, we are expected to believe
that they will be able to accept an additional 100,000-300,000 applications—more
than they were able to accept in the first two and a half months—in
the remaining three weeks. Either Home Affairs knows something about
the numbers that we do not, or the Department is not concerned that
large numbers of eligible Zimbabweans will be unable to apply before
the deadline and will be deported."
applicants expressed frustration over the long, slow process and
the lack of information or communication while they queued for days
outside the Home Affairs offices. They described spending all day
in the queue, only to be told at the end of the day that they would
have to come back the next day and try again. Many had to queue
overnight, some with children in their care. They also complained
that they were forced to stand all day in the sun and/or rain, with
no access to toilets or seating.
As a result
of the poor management and poor communication of the process, many
individuals queued for three days simply to pick up an application
form. They then had to start the queuing process over again in order
to turn in their application. They were forced to return a third
time to find out the status of their application. Each trip could
involve multiple days in the queue.
applicants worried about losing their jobs as a result of having
to take many days off work to lodge their applications. They also
expressed fear that they would not be processed before the deadline
and would be deported.
visits mean increased transport costs and lost wages, and for some,
the risk of losing their jobs," said Amit. "It is likely
that some eligible individuals are simply not attempting to apply
because of these obstacles, and will remain undocumented."
Amit, many of the problems stem from the short timeline provided
for the permitting process.
the deadline would ensure that all those eligible for these permits
could apply, while also alleviating the long queues. Yet, Home Affairs
continues to refuse to extend the deadline, without providing any
reasons for its refusal. If the Department is serious about ensuring
that all those who are eligible for these permits are able to apply,
there is no reason not to extend the application period. Without
an extension, the documentation process will be little more than
a superficial measure."
FMSP will continue
to monitor the queues at the Home Affairs offices until the end
of the year, and will release additional findings in January, 2011.
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