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The Department of Home Affairs is working towards allowing all African citizens to enter the country without visas. There is a catch though, initially, so-called “trusted travellers” will be the only ones to benefit. Trusted travellers? These are diplomats, academics, business people and students.
Home Affairs’ latest White Paper on international migration was already adopted by cabinet six weeks ago, the paper was not immediately made public.
The paper draws strongly on the African Union’s Agenda 2063, it led to former AU President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma launching the African Passport last year.
“South Africa fully supports the vision of an Africa where its citizens can move more freely across national borders, where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the African continent”.
Home Affairs believes the current situation is simply untenable.
“For instance, on average Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries. They can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries. Finally, they do not need a visa to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent.”
In March, Home Affairs also confirmed that “visa-free travel for South Africans to the EU” was still in the works. In fact, it was now finance Minister (former Home Affairs minister) Malusi Gigaba who stated in September that the EU were looking at relaxing or eliminating visa requirements for South Africans. Now that Hlengiwe Mkhize is heading up Home Affairs, how will that affect plans for the “African” passport and EU travel visas?
The White Paper is also aware of the potential security issues that could arise with visa scrapping.
“The policy is envisaged as follows: African citizens can enter South Africa visa-free where there are reciprocal agreements.
“Visas will only be needed when there are risks of foreign nationals overstaying, security risks like organised crime, terrorism and political instability, civil registration risks, i.e. fraud by foreign governments in issuing documents or an unable or unwillingness to identfy their nationals when requested, and for countries “with a high number of nationals who abuse the asylum system”.
“Key elements of the visa-free regime would be visa-free entry for visits up to 90 days, recognition of visas for third parties, for example regional visas, agreed standards on immigration and border management, agreed standards on civil registration and “sophisticated, real-time risk management, information and intelligence sharing”.
Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize is expected to announce details on the new immigration dispensation during her budget speech on Wednesday.