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November 1994, Volume 1, Number 10

South Africa Fights Illegal Immigration

One illegal immigrant enters South Africa every 10 minutes, according to the Home Affairs regional director. In order to stem the tide of illegal entrants, South Africa is considering a number of measures, including a US-style "green card," without which a foreigner could not work.

In 1993, South Africa expelled 96,000 illegal aliens to 39 countries, primarily Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. But the control immigration officer for the Johannesburg region estimates that his department is apprehending less than 10 percent of the illegals.

According to some observers, a country with an unemployment rate of nearly 50 percent, and a population with high expectations, has much to fear from the estimated two to eight million foreigners in South Africa. There are reports from the northern Transvaal that children as young as 12 are working as farm workers for 10 pounds (US$6) a month--adults receive about 30 pounds (US$18).

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party is leading a campaign to "clean" the country of illegal immigrants. It is organizing demonstrations and threatening direct action if the government does not deal with the issue. Chief Buthelezi is the minister of home affairs, the agency responsible for immigration.

Many of the illegal workers are from Zimbabwe, where two million workers are unemployed. Farm workers, hotel cleaners and miners are now being joined by professionals including teachers, doctors, engineers and nurses who find salaries much higher in South Africa. There are an estimated 300,000 Zimbabweans in South Africa, most working legally.

South Africa deported nearly 10,000 illegal migrants at the end of September. Over 13,500 Zimbabweans were expelled from Botswana between February and August, 1994. The Zimbabwean government fears that these mass deportations of illegal Zimbabwean workers from Botswana and South Africa will create serious economic problems for their country. The Zimbabwe government is asking South Africa and Botswana to deport the illegal workers in stages, so that the country has a better chance to absorb them back into the economy.


David Beresford, "The Streets of the City of Gold are Paved with Misery," The Guardian, October 6, 1994. Byron Pearson, "South Africa in bid to halt flood of illegals," Agence France Presse, October 6, 1994. Li Zengfu, "Round-up: Illegal job seekers create problems in southern Africa. "Xinhua News Agency, October 15, 1994.