28 August 2006
A recruitment centre to help reduce the number of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa – while promoting the legal flow of economic migrants, and protecting them from exploitation by employers – opened at the Beitbridge border post on Friday.
Business Day reports that the office, the first of its kind in Africa, will be manned by officials from South Africa, Zimbabwe and the International Office for Migration.
It will assist Zimbabweans seeking employment in South Africa with legal documents, and in particular will help regularise the status of thousands of Zimbabweans who work on South African farms, especially in Limpopo province.
Illegal Zimbabwean immigrants who are repatriated from South Africa will also be received at the office.
According to South Africa’s Department of Labour, the centre will provide deportees and other people in need of legal documents with food and other basic amenities while their documents are being sorted out.
It will include an HIV/Aids counselling centre, and serve as a centre point for the United Nations World Food Programme.
Friday’s opening follows site inspections by South African Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Nicholas Goche, in January.
Both Ministers have said the office will help to reduce both illegal migration and the abuse of Zimbabweans by unscrupulous employers who take advantage of the vulnerable status of foreigners.
Earlier this month, international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch released a report saying that Zimbabwean migrants to South Africa who lacked the proper documents were liable to be “arrested, detained and deported under conditions that flout South Africa’s Immigration Act.”
And whether or not Zimbabwean farm workers had the proper documents, Human Rights Watch said, South African employers “openly disregard the minimum wage, sometimes use a piece rate system rather than the hours of work to calculate remuneration, and make unlawful deductions from workers’ wages.”
According to Business Day, South Africa plans to set up similar centres on its borders with Mozambique, Lesotho and Botswana.
SouthAfrica.info reporter and BuaNews