The parliament revealed the information after a meeting was convened by the Portfolio Committees on Home Affairs and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to look at solutions to challenges around immigration in the country, particularly in the northeastern province of Gauteng.
The meeting followed the recent violent criminal attacks directed at foreigners in Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, both in Gauteng Province, which led to the deaths of 12 people, destruction of property and the displacement and resettlement of foreign nationals.
Following the attacks, the Department of Home Affairs, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies, conducted 56 raids on illegal immigrants from July to September, said Bongani Bongo, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs.
The raids, conducted in public places including retail stores, restaurants and hotels, led to the country deporting 11,455 undocumented foreign nationals between April and September, Bongo said.
“All this work will amount to little if the Border Management Authority (BMA) is not implemented to secure our borders,” Bongo said.
The BMA, proposed to be established in a BMA bill, is designed to oversee the management of ports of entry in the country.
The state entity is going to consolidate all the seven departments operating in the border posts and border line. It will also simplify the 58 pieces of legislation which are applicable to the management of South Africa’s borders.
The BMA bill was approved by the National Assembly, or the lower house, in 2017, and awaits approval of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), or the upper house.
Bingo said that progress is being made to finalize the BMA bill in the parliament, adding “We trust that the NCOP will be able to finalize its processes in relation to the BMA before the end of this year.”
“It has become even clearer that we need all spheres of government to cooperate to deal with the impact of undocumented foreign nationals on service delivery and social cohesion,” Bongo said.
The plight of illegal immigrants in South Africa has been under the spotlight recently following the xenophobic attacks.
Earlier this month, some refugees and asylum seekers, including women and children, protested in front of offices of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town and Pretoria.
The protesters accused the South African government of ignoring their plight, not only in Johannesburg where recent attacks occurred, but also in Cape Town.
Many refugees, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Nigeria, Somalia and Pakistan, have asked the UNHCR to help them leave South Africa for fear of xenophobic attacks.
The UNHCR has promised to work closely with the South African authorities to continue providing protection through the issuance of appropriate identity documentation, and facilitate access to health care, education and employment opportunities for all refugees and asylum seekers.
According to official statistics, South Africa is home to about 268,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and the DR Congo.