13 April 2005
South Africa has launched a specialist immigration branch in order to offer a professional, world-class service to the growing number of foreigners visiting the country.
The National Immigration Branch (NIB), launched by the Department of Home Affairs in Cape Town on Tuesday, will professionalise SA’s control over the entry, stay and departure of visitors, offering efficient services at the country’s ports of entry while beefing up the fight against illegal entrants.
The makeover includes high-tech equipment such as automated fingerprint scanners at immigration offices across the country; training in service provision and public relations; distinctive new uniforms for officials at border posts and airports; and a new fleet of vehicles.
Building a new immigration policy
Speaking at the launch, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the service offered by the NIB would reflect South Africa’s quest for “friendly and co-operative co-existence with our neighbours and other nations globally”.
South Africa, she said, was in the process of building an immigration policy that facilitated legal and regulated movement of people, attracted much-needed skills, boosted tourism, encouraged foreign investment – and was responsive to the immigration challenges the country was facing.
“Beyond just the capacity issues, we are confronted with problems regarding trafficking, facilitation, xenophobia, irregular and illegal immigration, lack of integration with neighbouring states, a formerly isolated economy, and the porous nature of our borders”, Mapisa-Nqakula said.
“South Africa’s newly established democracy 10 years ago created unprecedented levels of interaction with other nations of the world and placed us at the centre of the rebuilding of our continent.
“Our immigration regime as designed before the advent of our democracy was obviously not going to be adequate in addressing these new sets of challenges.”
Forging a new mindset
President Thabo Mbeki, who also attended the launch, said that since 1994 the volumes of people entering South Africa had increased substantially.
“Some come because they want to do business with us, while others will come because of political reasons”, Mbeki said. “It became clear that we don’t have the necessary capacity to handle these large volumes.”
Mbeki emphasised that it was a new mindset, not a new uniform, that would ensure a better quality of service to ordinary people. South Africa needed officials that were “good, polite and efficient”, and the NIB should ensure that those who entered the country were handled with the necessary sensitivity.
At the same time, he said, those who came into the country for wrong reasons would be identified and dealt with.
“Some would like to come in our country to use our country as a base from which to attack other countries”, Mbeki said. “There are also some who will come because they want to bring illicit drugs into the country.
“It is therefore imperative that we detect them, and that our immigration officials are efficient when dealing with these matters.”