May I take this opportunity on behalf of our department and myself to welcome you all to this media briefing. Today I am also joined by representatives of the Angolan Embassy, the CEO of the Government Printing Works Professor Anthony Mbewu and representatives of the successful bidders for part of the Smart ID Card project.
Firstly, let me extend on behalf of our department and ministry our deepest condolences to family, friends and colleagues of the late Vuyo Mbuli. Our thoughts and prayers reach out to his wife and the children during this time of bereavement. We also extend our condolences to a member of our staff Veronica Magodielo who lost her child in tragic circumstances earlier this week.
As announced, our intention is to brief you on three issues that are of interest to both the public and yourselves namely:
- The cessation of the Angolan refugee status
- The announcement of winning bidders for the implementation of the smart ID card, and
- SA-UK visa regime
DECLARATION OF THE CESSATION OF REFUGEE STATUS FOR ANGOLANS
In October 2009, the UNHCR announced to UN member states a proposal to bring final closure of the Angolan refugee situation. Arising from this, the UNHCR embarked on a consultative process with relevant stakeholders and has recommended that member states act in concert to achieve a uniform schedule for the implementation of the cessation of the refugee dispensation.
In terms of our legal regime the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs (SCRA) has the authority to withdraw refugee status for those categories of people whose refugee circumstances have ceased.
The South African government has declared its intention to cease recognition of asylum seekers from Angola within the parameters of the UNHCR recommendation from the 31 August 2013. The SCRA issued a press statement yesterday which indicates that they have met and resolved to begin a process of reviewing the status of persons affected by the above developments. There are two voluntary routes open to those who will cease to be considered refugees in August.
Assisted Return to Angola:
The government of the Republic of South Africa through the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) working in close collaboration with the UNHCR and the Government of the Republic of Angola, will assist refugees to voluntarily return to Angola. Those who wish to return to Angola and take advantage of the assisted program to be put in place by the UNHCR and the Angolan government, are called upon to report to help desks to be set up at various addresses provided below as from 3 June 2013. We shall publish these details in the next few days.
Stay in South Africa:
This option is available to those Angolan Refugees who on a voluntary basis resume their National status by producing or acquiring an Angolan passport. This will entail the voluntary surrender of refugee status, the production or acquisition of a valid Angolan passport through the Angolan embassy or consulate, and the application and the issuance of appropriate temporary residence visas. All of these processes will be facilitated through the help desks that will be up and running from the 29 May 2013 until Saturday the 31 August 2013. Affected persons who wish to avail themselves of this option are urged to visit the help desks where they will be advised and assisted. Representatives of the Angolan government and UNHCR will also be on hand to facilitate the applications for necessary travel documents and answer any further queries.
Refugees who are of the view that despite the material changes in Angola, that they qualify for continued protection of the South African state, may submit their motivations to the SCRA in terms of the Refugee Act. This process is a distinct one that will be dealt with through processes set out in law.
Window of Opportunity
It is emphasized that the voluntary processes described above present a window of opportunity for affected persons and will conclude on the 31 August 2013. These processes are designed to assist persons to obtain certainty in their status in a quick and easy way. These processes will not be available beyond the 31 August 2013. In this regard the voluntary assisted options are an expression by the government of the Republic of South Africa of its own commitment to find durable solutions for this specific category of persons and do not bind the government or the department of Home Affairs in future instances of cessation of refugee status. Addresses are listed at the end of this statement.
SMART ID CARD
I used our Budget Vote speech, as an opportunity to announce our firm intention to begin issuing the smart ID card, in a phased approach from our 27 regional offices, from July this year
This is part of the national effort to consolidate the restoration of our common citizenship, identity and dignity to all our people. In this regard, the launch of the Smart ID Card must be viewed as culmination of decades of struggle by our people to reclaim their identity and citizenship. It is also a key part of the DHA’s modernisation project, through which we intend to entrench technology and efficient service in the DHA.
In the past few years, the Government Printing Works (GPW) has proven to be a secure, reliable and technology wise partner. GPW will work with successful service providers who have responded to requests for proposals.
Through a rigorous international tender process, Government Printing Works identified two world class suppliers, each with extensive experience in their field. Today we are pleased to announce the successful bidders who will provide the material and software to enable the Department to produce the Smart ID cards.
The first successful bidder is Altech Card Solutions, a South African company, which will supply GPW with card personalisation machines and an automated mailing solution manufactured by Datacard of the USA. The second successful bidder is Gemalto Southern Africa, a subsidiary of Gemalto SA, one of the world’s largest and leading ID card producers. They will supply GPW with blank, preprinted polycarbonate cards containing a contactless microchip.
We congratulate Gemalto and Altech Card Solutions and look forward to working with them as we implement this mega project of providing the new smart ID card to all our people.
SA-UK VISA REGIME
The matter of the visa regime between South Africa and the United Kingdom has received considerable public attention. This arises from the fact the current regime imposed on South Africa by the British authorities has an impact on the large traveller volumes between the two countries.
Let me provide some background to this matter – in March 2008 Britain unilaterally imposed visa requirements on South Africans wishing to travel to Great Britain following the outcome of a Visa Waiver Test the British authorities had conducted on countries they deemed to be a high risk from an immigration point of view.
Taking into account the concerns raised by the UK government in this regard, the South African government understanding was that the security issues raised by the British authorities related only to holders of ordinary South African passports. However, the British authorities extended the visa regime to holders of diplomatic and official passports.
Since then we have been involved in discussions with our British counterparts to find an amicable resolution to the matter. It is important to state that since the imposition of the visa regime on South Africa, great strides have been made in enhancing the security and integrity of our travel documents.
We are of the view that the steps we have taken thus far have sufficiently addressed the concerns raised by the British authorities. In various discussions with our colleagues we have consistently called for a review of the current regime and reciprocal treatment of holders of official and diplomatic passports
While we respect the right of the British to manage immigration in a manner they deem fit, we also believe the international practice of reciprocity should apply as a principle. We have undertaken to continue the current discussions between our two governments and to give officials an opportunity to find a speedy resolution of the matter. Based on the outcomes of these discussions, the government will make a final decision based on principled international best practice.
I thank you.
Offices at which Angolan Refugees should report:
Corner Lavina and Stone Street
Nashua Building, North End
Souter Street, Gate 2
Tel: 012 306 0800
KWA ZULU NATAL
132 Moore Street
Tel: 031 362 1205
5 Heerenchraght Street
Custom House, Warehouse Building
Issued by Department of Home Affairs