Britain’s visa rules for South Africans ‘unfair’

A South African man with family in the UK has written to David Cameron to complain about how hard it is for him to visit.

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A South African has written to complain to David Cameron about “unfair” visa rules which have stopped him visiting his family back in the UK.

The 80-year-old man says the process of applying for a visa is too arduous to undertake after immigration rules were tightened up three years ago.

The man, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of prejudicing a possible visa application should he change his mind, previously lived and worked in the UK before relocating to the outskirts of Johannesburg.

He regularly visited his Britain-based son, daughter and two aunts before the visa clampdown.

He said: “British nationals do not need a visa to visit South Africa, so why are South Africans not treated equally when they want to visit family and friends in Britain? We were good enough to fight for Britain’s freedom in the Second World War, but have been treated as second class citizens.”

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International reaction to Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa

South African President Zuma gestures during a news conference in Pretoria

The attacks were condemned by a wide variety of organisations and government leaders throughout Africa and the rest of the world.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concerns about the violence and urged the South African government to cease deportation of Zimbabwean nationals and also to allow the refugees and asylum seekers to regularise their stay in the country.

Malawi began repatriation of some of its nationals in South Africa. The Mozambican government sponsored a repatriation drive that saw the registration of at least 3 275 individuals.

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Immigration loophole ‘exploited’ by companies

The Government’s immigration cap has been labelled a “sham” as new figures reveal that companies will be able to bypass the restriction to bring in thousands of foreign workers.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced last week that the number of migrant workers coming to the UK from outside the European Union will be limited to 24,400 a year

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced last week that the number of migrant workers coming to the UK from outside the European Union will be limited to 24,400 a year

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced last week that the number of migrant workers coming to the UK from outside the European Union will be limited to 24,400 a year, fulfilling a Conservative manifesto pledge.

However, the Home Office has admitted that the interim cap will not apply to a system known as “intra-company transfers”, or ICTs, which allows firms to bring in non-EU nationals who are already on their payroll.

New figures reveal the extent to which companies are able to use the ICT system to import foreign staff on a massive scale.

One Indian company, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), sponsored 4,600 of its employees to come to Britain in 2008 through ICTs, according to Home Office data.

Although there is no suggestion that TCS has broken the rules, the scale of immigration from India through the intra-company transfers is startling.

Another Indian company, Infosys Technologies Limited, sponsored 3,235 foreigners to come to the UK in the same year, while a third, Wipro Technologies, brought in 2,420.

While the Home Office has said that there were 30,000 arrivals under the ICT system last year, this was down from a total the previous year of 46,000 – suggesting that the use of ICTs could rise again when the global economy recovers.

In 1992 there were only 7,000, rising by 1997 to 15,000.

Indians make up 70 per cent of the migrants brought to Britain on ICTs, while others are from nations including the US, South Africa, Japan and China.

Although the system is intended to help companies which cannot recruit suitable candidates within the UK, critics claim that in practice much of the work could easily have been done by Britons.

The Home Office has disclosed the names of around 20,000 employers which are registered to bring skilled migrant workers into Britain on so-called “Tier 2” visas.

Names on the list, published on the UK Border Agency website last week, range from Chelsea Football Club and Conservative Campaign Headquarters to hundreds of Thai restaurants, Indian takeaways and kebab shops.

Among the companies on the list, around 4,700 are permitted to use ICTs. Yet the UK Border Agency only has 125 staff responsible for visiting sponsor companies and keeping checks on them.

Unions and professional bodies claim that ICTs are being manipulated by some companies as a source of cheap labour, undercutting British employees and forcing them out of work.

The Government is still considering the details of the permanent annual cap on non-EU migrant worker numbers, which will replace the interim cap announced last week.

It has yet to decide whether to include or exclude ICTs from the permanent cap.

One British IT worker described how his contract at Lloyds TSB was cut short after the bank hired a dozen Indian trainees through the ICT system.

“There was a team of about 20 people, most of whom were contractors like myself, but Lloyds brought in 12 to 15 Indians to be trained by us to do the work,” said the expert, who did not want to be named.

“The company said the Indian employees would only do low-level work but then the British workers’ contracts were cut short, with just a couple kept on to supervise the Indian employees.

“These jobs would have been ideal for someone coming off a computing degree in the UK, but the company was shipping in people from abroad.

“People there did not like it at all – they could see the writing on the wall. If you went to the offices about 80 per cent of IT workers were Indian.”

The IT specialist, who has 20 years’ experience in the industry, said use of ICTs was widespread in the banking industry.

“ICTs are used to bring large numbers of people in for the purposes of cheap labour,” he said.

“I’m shocked that the Government are exempting ICTs from their cap. It makes their promise a complete sham.

“Surely they understand that it is leaving the door wide open for this type of abuse?”

A spokesman for Lloyds TSB declined to comment on the claims.

George Anastasi, policy adviser at the Professional Contractors Group which represents freelance and contract workers, said: “Some large companies are exploiting the loophole offered by ICTs and we want to see the system changed so it cannot be abused in this way.

“We believe that intra-company transfers have displaced lots of British IT workers, putting some of them out of work.

“We are hoping the Government will do the right thing and tighten the rules. Something needs to be done – ICTs cannot be ignored forever.”

Peter Skyte of the trade union Unite said: “Our prediction is that the ICT will remain after the interim period because of pressure from multinationals and from embassies.

“We are very concerned about displacement of UK resident workers and its potential for undercutting pay rates. We think its use should be limited to senior management, key personnel and people coming to the UK for training programmes.

“There should also be a defined annual minimum salary of £40,000.”

Applicants for an ICT must earn above a minimum salary level, to ensure that they are skilled workers, but the level has been set at only £24,000 a year, or only £20,000 a year for those with a degree.

A previous requirement for companies to prove that staff being brought in under ICTs had specific knowledge and that jobs could not be filled by Britons was relaxed at the end of 2008.

Although the rules state that a worker brought in on an ICT must not “be directly replacing a settled worker”, many in the IT industry report that this requirement is not adhered to in practice.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the pressure group MigrationWatch, said: “The ICT is being abused on a very significant scale. It is very easy to ‘game’ the system and ensure that your applicant just fits within the requirements.

“Policing of the ICT needs to be strengthened to ensure it is not being manipulated.”

One reason for bringing applicants to Britain was to “prepare the ground” for moving operations overseas, such as moving call centres and data processing to India, he said.

A report by the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) last summer expressed concern about ICTs and recommended that the Government should “consider both the level of resource it devotes to enforcement and the transparency of these activities”.

Other countries with equivalent systems to the UK’s ICT require candidates to be more senior employees, or to have been with their employer for longer.

The MAC recommended extending the required period of employment from six months to 12.

Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: “It is important that we attract the brightest and the best people who can make a real difference to our economic growth, but immigration is too high and needs to be reduced.

“The Government has announced it will introduce a limit on economic migration from outside the EU as part of work to scale back net migration to the levels of the 1990s, to the tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands.

“Our consultation contains proposals for restricting the ICT route by bringing long-term transfers within our annual limit.”

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Domestic political reaction on Refugees and Asylum Seekers in South Africa

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On 21 May, then-President Thabo Mbeki approved a request from the SAPS for deployment of armed forces against the attacks in Gauteng. It is the first time that the South African government has ordered troops out to the streets in order to quell unrest since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Several political parties blamed each other, and sometimes other influences, for the attacks. The Gauteng provincial branch of the ANC has alleged that the violence is politically motivated by a “third hand” that is primarily targeting the ANC for the 2009 general elections.  Both the Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, and the director general of the National Intelligence Agency, Manala Manzini, backed the Gauteng ANC’s allegations that the anti-immigrant violence is politically motivated and targeted at the ANC. Referring to published allegations by one rioter that he was being paid to commit violent acts against immigrants, Manzini said that the violence was being stoked primarily within hostel facilities by a third party with financial incentives.

Helen Zille, leader of the official opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA), pointed to instances of crowds of rioters singing Umshini wami, a song associated then-president of the ANC Jacob Zuma,  and noted that the rioters also hailed from the rank and file of the ANC Youth League. She alleged that Zuma had promised years before to his supporters to take measures against the immigration of foreign nationals to South Africa and that Zuma’s most recent condemnation of the riots and distancing from the anti-immigration platform was not enough of a serious initiative against the participation of fellow party members in the violence.  Both Zille and the parliamentary leader of the DA, Sandra Botha, slammed the ANC for shifting the blame concerning the violence to a “third hand”, which is often taken in South African post-apartheid political discourse as a reference to pro-apartheid or allegedly pro-apartheid organisations.

Zuma, in turn, condemned both the attacks and the Mbeki government’s response to the attacks; Zuma also lamented the usage of his trademark song Umshini wami by the rioters. Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe called for the creation of local committees to combat violence against foreigners.

Zille was also criticised by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel for being quoted in the Cape Argus as saying that foreigners were responsible for a bulk of the drug trade in South Africa.

In KwaZulu-Natal province, Bheki Cele, provincial community safety minister, blamed the Inkatha Freedom Party, a nationalist Zulu political party, for stoking and capitalising on the violence in Durban. Both Cele and premier S’bu Ndebele claimed that IFP members had attacked a tavern that catered to Nigerian immigrants en route to a party meeting. The IFP, which is based primarily in the predominately ethnically-Zulu KwaZulu-Natal province, rejected the statements, and had, on 20 May, engaged in an anti-xenophobia meeting with the ANC.

Grassroots social movements came out strongly against the 2008 xenophobic attacks calling them pogroms promoted by government and political parties.  Some have claimed that local politicians and police have sanctioned the attacks. They have also called for the closure of the Lindela Repatriation Centre which is seen as an example of the negative way the South African government treats African foreigners.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

‘SA het oor 2 j. meeste Somaliese vlugtelinge’

South Africans loot a Somali owned business, following xenophobic attacks on foreigners in Du Noon, Cape Town, South Africa, 23 May 2008. Xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals has spread across the country with several areas in the Cape Town metropole now affected. More than 40 people have died with hundreds injured and thousands displaced after a week of violent attacks on foreign nationals.

South Africans loot a Somali owned business, following xenophobic attacks on foreigners in Du Noon, Cape Town, South Africa, 23 May 2008. Xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals has spread across the country with several areas in the Cape Town metropole now affected. More than 40 people have died with hundreds injured and thousands displaced after a week of violent attacks on foreign nationals.

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Suid-Afrika gaan Brittanje binnekort verbysteek as die land met die grootste aantal Somaliese vlugtelinge ter wêreld.

Só het kenners hier in die parlement gewaarsku.

Daar is tans meer as 300000 Somaliërs in Brittanje, het prof. Iqbal Jhazbhay van Unisa se departement vir godsdienstige studies eergister gesê.

“Suid-Afrika het geen keuse as om aandag aan die Somaliese kwessie te gee nie. Volgens die plaaslike Somaliese gemeenskap se eie berekeninge is daar tans tussen 100000 en 120000 Somaliërs in Suid-Afrika.

“As ons die huidige trek van Somaliese vlugtelinge na Suid-Afrika in ag neem, raam ek dat die Somali-gemeenskap in die land binne twee jaar groter sal wees as dié in Brittanje,” het Jhazbhay in ’n voorlegging aan die portefeuljekomitee oor internasionale betrekkinge gesê.

Die DA het gister gesê die R8 miljoen waartoe die regering hom vir humanitêre hulp in Somalië verbind het, is nie genoeg om werklik ’n verskil te maak nie.

“Gegewe die lening van R2,5 miljard wat ons pas aan Swaziland toegestaan het om hom van die gevolge van sy eie geldelike wanbestuur te red, behoort ons ’n groter skenking aan Somalië te oorweeg,” het mnr. Stevens Mokgalapa, DA-LP, gesê.

Ook die organisasie Gift of the Givers het eergister kaalvuis onder die regering ingeklim oor die “skamele” R4 miljoen wat vir sy werk beloof is, maar waarvan hy nog niks ontvang het nie.

“Wat is R4 miljoen? Dit stuur ’n bars boodskap dat ons nie omgee vir Afrika nie,” het dr. Imtiaz Sooliman, stigter en voorsitter van Gift of the Givers, gesê. Hy en sy span het Dinsdag ná ’n noodsending van agt dae uit Somalië teruggekeer.

Sooliman het gesê ’n aardbewing wat duisende mense in ’n oomblik kan uitwis, is beter as die pyn van ’n ma wat weke lank moet aanskou hoe haar kinders een-een wegkwyn.

Die adjunk-minister van internasionale betrekkinge en samewerking, mnr. Marius Fransman, het gesê Gift of the Givers is nie die enigste organisasie aan wie die regering hulp bied nie.

Volgens hom moet die geld noodgedwonge deur die regering se finansiële stelsels gevoer word, maar dit sal “binne dae” oorhandig word.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Somali Traders Arming Themselves To Defend Against Cape Town Gangs

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Somalian traders have been arming themselves with illegal weapons to defend themselves against gangs of ruthless robbers in Cape Town`s townships.

Twelve of them have been killed in Khayelitsha alone – one of the largest townships in the province – in the past three months, according to Abdi Ahmed, a spokesman for the Somali Retailers` Association. “Our people are dying like dogs, and the government is doing nothing to stop it,” he said.

Three Somalis and an Ethiopian were shot dead in their stores in a 24-hour murder and robbery spree. Police discovered that a 9mm pistol was used in all the attacks between October 22 and 23.

Now the area has been flooded with illegal guns as the traders arm themselves.

Provincial police spokesman Colonel Billy Jones refused to divulge how many illegal weapons had been seized in the area.

The killing spree in October claimed the lives of Hassan Mohammed Essa, Hoesein Mahamud Arale, Abduragman Ali and Tegesa Ababo.

The Sunday Times has established that detectives and the Visible Policing Unit, tipped off that shopkeepers were arming themselves, have since raided Somali stores. They recovered five illegal firearms and arrested five Somalians.

One of the weapons was, according to SAPS (South African Police Service) records, listed as having been destroyed in the Eastern Cape. Yet the 9mm pistol was found in the possession of a Somalian, Abdiriskh Mohamed, 28, who had been in the country for only 14 days when he was arrested.

Said Ahmed: “We don`t condone or encourage the actions of the men, but we understand their desperation. We have to protect ourselves. We didn`t come to this country to commit crime. We came here to escape the killing in our own country.

“There are many Somali shopkeepers who have been shot more than once. The wound from the first shot doesn`t even have time to heal before they are shot and robbed again.”

One of the shop owners who survived two shootings, who wanted to be known only as Mahmoud, this week showed the Sunday Times the graves in Salt River cemetery of fellow countrymen.

The police blitz started on October 26 at Mazola Cash Store in Kuyasa, where a 7.65mm pistol and ammunition were found. The gun was reported stolen in November last year. Abdulah Weheliye, 56, was charged with possession of an illegal firearm.

On October 28, Aden Ismail Mohamed, 24, was arrested at Rwantsama Cash store in Enkanini, in Harare. They confiscated a 9mm pistol and ammunition. The pistol was stolen in a housebreaking in the Strand in June 2008.

On the same day, police held Abdulah Omar, 25, for possession of illegal ammunition at African Cash Store in Endlovini.

At Siya Cash Store in Enkanini, police found a 9mm pistol with its serial number filed off. Mohamed Dayah, 36, was arrested. Mohamed Omar, 29, was arrested at African Shop in Endlovini.

Four Somali-Owned Shops Burned Down, 55 Looted in E. Cape Attacks

South Africans loot a Somali owned business, following xenophobic attacks on foreigners in Du Noon, Cape Town, South Africa, 23 May 2008. Xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals has spread across the country with several areas in the Cape Town metropole now affected. More than 40 people have died with hundreds injured and thousands displaced after a week of violent attacks on foreign nationals.

South Africans loot a Somali owned business, following xenophobic attacks on foreigners in Du Noon, Cape Town, South Africa, 23 May 2008. Xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals has spread across the country with several areas in the Cape Town metropole now affected. More than 40 people have died with hundreds injured and thousands displaced after a week of violent attacks on foreign nationals.

Four Somali shops have been burnt down and 55 shops have been looted in Motherwell and Kwadwesi, in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape police said on Thursday.

“About 200 Somalis ran away from their shops, where a lot of them live, when other residents started attacking them,” said Captain Andre Beetge.

He did not know the reason for the attack.

He said he had heard of some physical assaults on Somalis, but no cases had been opened.

Fifty-two shops were looted and three were burnt down in Motherwell and three shops were looted and one was burnt down in Kwadwesi.

The attacks began on Wednesday afternoon and continued until the early hours of Thursday morning when police contained the situation.

“There was some stone-throwing at police when they arrived at the scene, but it wasn`t a general thing,” said Beetge.

“The situation is stable and quiet now and a lot of the Somalis have returned to their homes.

Some are operating their businesses already,” he said.

In March 2011 Somalis blamed local businessmen for prompting an attack then after some argued they were being undercut and were alarmed at the competition.

Somali leaders then accused the police of helping themselves to their goods during attacks.

The police firmly deny such charges and say that any goods they are able to salvage during the looting of Somali shops are taken to the local police station for safe keeping.

Joseph Matshapa, a community police forum officer in Motherwell, told UNHCR investigators that police have introduced several measures aimed at protecting Somali businesses.

“The police patrol Somali business areas at all hours.

After each patrol, the shop owner and the police both sign a confirmation of patrol booklet, which is proof that the police are trying to uphold safety and security,” he noted.