Clock ticking away for illegal Basotho immigrants

Clock ticking away for illegal Basotho immigrants

Staff Reporter

MASERU

TIME is running out for thousands of Basotho who are living and working illegally in South Africa to apply for special permits agreed for by the two governments.

The Lesotho Home Affairs Ministry’s spokesperson Relebohile Moyeye said the deadline to apply for the special permits has been set for June 30.

There are between 400 000 and 500 000 Basotho living and working in South Africa, the majority of whom are illegal immigrants, according to the Lesotho’s National Population Register.

However, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba who visited the Lesotho Special Permit Facilitation and Application Centre in Midrand on Tuesday said only 5 694 Basotho have applied for the special permits.

Moyeye said the hesitancy by Basotho to take the opportunity that will enable them to stay in South Africa without being chased by the police is worrying.

“The time left is too short and we have had a chance to regularise Basotho’s stay in South Africa since February this year but for all these months our people have not taken that chance,” Moyeye said.

“I appeal to all those Basotho who are staying and working without proper papers in South Africa to come forward and apply for all relevant documents that will allow them to stay legally in South Africa,” he said.

“This is urgent because we are left with only less than two months before that door is banged on our faces.”

Gigaba, speaking during his visit to the Lesotho Special Permit Centre in Midrand, said the South African government was “not happy with the uptake thus far and wish to urgently appeal to those Lesotho nationals who have not visited these centres to do so and use this opportunity to regularise their stay in the country”.

“The centres are open on weekends to assist applicants to complete the online application process,” Gigaba said.

“We want to see Basotho becoming part of South African society without fear of deportation and to formalise their stay in South Africa, mindful of the contribution that they are making to the economy here and in their country,” he said.

Although South Africa is inviting Basotho to follow the legal process to regularise their stay in South Africa, some Basotho working in that country complain that their employers are refusing to give them letters to indicate that they are employed so that they can apply for both residence and employment permits.

Moyeye said many Basotho have approached the Lesotho Home Affairs office over the matter and the ministry is working hard to deal with the matter in collaboration with their South African counterparts.

Gigaba appealed to employers to issue their employees with letters confirming employment of the prospective Lesotho Special Permits applicants, which is one of the key requirements of the application process.

Every effort has been made to ensure this service is broadly available with application centres set up throughout South Africa in strategic regions of high Basotho population density.

“We understand that there may be fear, but this initiative is designed to help all Basotho here in South Africa,” Gigaba said, adding: “It is important that you do this and become legal in South Africa.”

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