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​City challenges Home Affairs over failure to address illegal immigration

The challenge of illegal immigration in Johannesburg has reached crisis level.
In the interests of inter-governmental relations as espoused in the Constitution, I have on numerous occasions sought an audience with the Department of Home Affairs, in good faith. So far, these attempts have been in vain.
I have instructed the City’s legal team to investigate all legal options available to the City to compel the Department of Home Affairs, to address the issue of illegal immigration in the City of Johannesburg. I expect papers to be filed in court in the coming weeks.

The Department of Home Affairs has a constitutional obligation to address this issue. So far, the Department’s conduct on this matter can be described in one word: Dismal.  For over a year, and two Ministers later, I have continuously attempted to engage the Department on this matter, in the interests of the City and its residents.

The City of Johannesburg currently faces a housing backlog of an estimated 300 000 units. I have stated on numerous occasions that I believe the inner city holds the perfect solution to this challenge, with the opportunity of government partnering with the private sector to create high-rise, densified, low-cost, quality accommodation.

The City has already taken steps to ensure this solution becomes a reality. Council has approved this administration’s plans for creating high-rise, low cost, densified, quality housing in the inner city. In light of this project, we have also conducted a number of raids on hijacked buildings, which have revealed a substantial number of undocumented immigrants residing in these buildings.

Many people, out of desperation borne out of political, social and economic instability in their countries, seek a better life in South Africa, and the City of Johannesburg in particular.

As undocumented immigrants, many of these people make it past our borders and are forced to live on the fringes of our society, in the shadows and with limited protection.
It is essential that national government cleans up its act and ensures that there is:

• identification and processing of undocumented immigrants; and 
• in the appropriate circumstances, that legal documentation be expeditiously provided to those who qualify.

Within the context of the City of Johannesburg, illegal immigration compounds serious challenges for the provision of temporary emergency accommodation for residents and other basic services.

As matters stand, there are still over 120 allegedly, undocumented immigrants housed at the Wembley Stadium in line with the City’s obligation to provide temporary emergency accommodation. This followed a fire at the Cape York building in the inner city on 5 July 2017.

Three months later the Department of Home Affairs has still not determined the status of these residents at Wembley Stadium.

To date, the City has conducted 11 raids within the inner city, in conjunction with the Department of Home Affairs. During this process, 267 allegedly undocumented immigrants were arrested.

Despite being aware of this crisis, it would appear the Department has failed to develop a proactive plan for addressing this challenge.

This reflects a continued pattern of inaction by the Department of Home Affairs. We cannot remain silent in the face of the breakdown of the rule of law in our city and the rising human crisis. Ultimately, the causalities of this inaction will be the City’s poorest residents and indeed, law abiding foreign nationals.  The time has come for the Department of Home Affairs to act. The time is now.

Cllr Herman Mashaba
Executive Mayor 
City of Joburg

For further information contact:

Luyanda Mfeka
Acting Director of Communications
Office of the Executive Mayor
Tel: 011 407 6727
076 171 5978