Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this special briefing on the pilot project on the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry and other issues of immigration.

This is to explain the work we are doing to enhance border security while easing the pressure on travellers, including those in transit.

As you are aware, travel documents accepted for border integrity purposes underpin the ideals of safety and security.

The importance of valid travel documents to international security cannot be overstated as the ability to operate with anonymity, across borders, is a powerful enabler for persons to advance unlawful and illegitimate activities.

Travel documents are, however, only as satisfactory as the identification-related systems behind their production, issuance, control and inspection.

To protect our national security, South Africa is in the process of enhancing its capacity to uniquely identify individuals and confirm the identity of travellers with the highest possible degree of certainty, security and efficiency.

To this end, the Department has identified the capturing of biometrics as a key element in securing movements of persons in and out of South Africa.

The purpose of taking biometric data at ports of entry is to accurately identify people and determine whether they pose a risk to South Africa.

By using biometrics, SA immigration is helping to prevent the use of fraudulent documents, protect visitors from identify theft and to stop criminals and immigration violators from entering the country.

The introduction of biometrics constitutes a key priority in the Modernisation Programme of the Department.

The capturing of the travellers’ biometrics on arrival, at a port of entry of the Republic of South Africa, will also alleviate the pressure to apply in person in visa-required countries or in those countries where we have no representation.

We should, however, reiterate that South Africa is not the only country in the world asking people to apply for visas in person, and using biometrics. Examples include the United States of America, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Singapore, and, on our continent, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya.

The enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) Biometric Pilot programme was introduced at Lanseria International Airport, in November 2015.

This month we introduced the Pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports. The scope of capturing biometrics at these four pilot sites is currently limited to selected passenger processing counters, but will be extended at the beginning of 2016.

At OR Tambo International Airport, there is currently a specific focus on the capturing of biometrics in the transit area.

The successful implementation of the biometric solution at ports of entry will provide for an alternative mechanism that mitigates against the requirements for the Transit Visa.

What this means is that for travellers using ports of entry that have biometric capacity, the Transit Visa will no longer be required.

In terms of process, the biometrics (photo and fingerprints) of a traveller will be captured in addition to the normal scanning of the passport to record the movement on our enhanced Movement Control System. For the first registration, the Department will capture all 10 fingers. Subsequent movements will require capturing of only one finger for verification purposes.

The baseline implementation of the Phase 1 biometric solution will be completed by 31 March 2016 after which a rollout plan will be developed to implement the capturing of biometrics at the other 67 ports of entry. I must emphasise that our ultimate aim is to capture biometrics for all travellers upon arrival and departure from the Republic at all ports of entry.

We are looking forward to a smooth process with only limited glitches as would be expected of any new endeavour or project. At these four pilot sites, there will be Immigration Officers who will assist travellers with the capturing of biometrics.

With regard to the Lesotho special dispensation, we reiterate our decision to grant a moratorium on deportations for Lesotho nationals, until 31 December 2016, to facilitate a smooth implementation of the Lesotho special dispensation (LSD).

We are extending also an amnesty to Lesotho nationals. To qualify, they only need to voluntarily surrender fraudulent permits or SA passports and IDs in their possession.

Once again I appeal to our brothers and sisters from Lesotho to use this opportunity, to improve their stay in South Africa. We ask them to come forward and surrender all these fraudulently-acquired documents. No one will arrest them for doing so within this specified period.

The implementation of the LSD was approved by Cabinet in October 2015, to regularise the stay of Lesotho nationals currently residing in South Africa illegally.

The moratorium will exclude persons with negative police clearance and those who have been released from prison after serving sentences.

We are ready to extend a 10-year Multiple Entry Visitor’s Visa to frequent travellers (business executives and academics) on the continent – Africa, similar to the 10-year Multiple Entry Visa for BRICS business executives.

Tomorrow being national Day of Reconciliation, do make peace with your compatriots, across all artificial, human-made barriers!

I thank you.