Xenophobia in South Africa

everyone-a-foreigner

Xenophobia in South Africa

Prior to 1994 immigrants from elsewhere in Africa faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa, though much of that risk stemmed from the institutionalised racism of the time due to apartheid. After 1994 and democratisation, and contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased, Between 2000 and March 2008 at least 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. In May 2008 a series of riots left 62 people dead; although 21 of those killed were South African citizens. The attacks were apparently motivated by xenophobia.

Xenophobia in South Africa Before 1994

European immigration

Restrictions on immigration can be traced back to the Union of South Africa, with the different states adopting different policies on foreigners. A prejudice against immigrants from eastern and southern Europe (measured against the welcome of those from western and northern Europe) has been documented. In the Cape Colony the Cape Immigration Act (No 30) of 1906 set as requirement the ability to complete an application form in a European language (including Yiddish) and proof of £20 as visible means of support.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

 

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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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South Africa looks to deport Zimbabwean immigrants

Thousands of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa could face deportation in the New Year.

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South Africa is home to up to three million Zimbabwean immigrants, many of whom entered the country illegally.

In September, South African authorities declared that they were cracking down on illegal immigration, and that any Zimbabwean migrants who had not applied for a visa by December 31 would be forced to go home.

Now, with just a few days to go before the deadline expires, migrants are queuing round the block at Department of Home Affairs offices to organise their documentation – with some claiming they have been forced to wait in line for several days to simply pick up an application form.

There are are currently between two and three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, of whom less than half are believed to have valid documentation.

As of December 22 however, less than 13,000 applications had been received – of which only 43,087 are understood to have been processed. From those which have been been adjudicated, 10,844 have been denied.

Many migrants are believed to have been unable to apply because they cannot afford to take the necessary time off work to queue. Others have been held back by the fact they need a Zimbabwean passport to apply – something many illegal migrants do not have.

The authorities have increased staff levels and extended working hours over the Christmas period, as well as simplifying some aspects of the application process, but have rejected appeals from pleas from migrants to extend the deadline.

“My department is committed to ensuring that all Zimbabwean nationals are documented so they can begin to live productive lives in South Africa, free from fear of persecution,” said Minister of Home Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. “I am…convinced that all Zimbabwean nationals will have an opportunity to hand in their applications.”

Human rights groups have accused the goverment of setting an unrealistic timeframe for the application process, with some going so far as to suggest it is a deliberate measure to facilitate the expulsion of large numbers of migrants.

The increasing number of migrants entering South Africa from Zimbawe in recent years has triggered hostility from parts of the South African population.

The government has responded by saying that efforts to get Zimbabwean nationals to apply for the correct documentation were implemented between April 2009 and 2010, and that the September-December timeframe was intended only to give those had not yet applied a chance to do so. “Therefore, far from Zimbabweans having only three months to submit to this process, they have had a year and three months” said Dlamini Zuma.

Braam Hanekom, a spokesman for the migrants rights group People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty, said that his organisation was “completely against deportation of Zimbabweans who are not criminals and who are either rejected refugee applicants or undocumented.

“We believe that every effort should be made to meet the deadline, by all stakeholders and that if there remain large numbers of Zimbabweans queuing at the offices the department should seriously consider its extension,” he said.

Although the deadline for applications will not be extended, authorities have stated that deportations will not begin until the last application has been processed.

“It is unclear when the moratorium on deportations will be lifted,” said Mr Hanekom.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Immigration cap loophole sees massive surge

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May walk through Terminal 5 during a visit to UK Border Agency staff at Heathrow Airport

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May walk through Terminal 5 during a visit to UK Border Agency staff at Heathrow Airport

Home Office statistics reveal that the number of foreigners arriving on “intra company transfers” (ICTs), which do not count towards the cap total, rose sharply following the Coalition’s announcement of an interim cap in mid-July.

There were 30 per cent more ICTs handed out in between July and September this year than in the same period last year.

Experts said the increase showed that companies were to continuing to import cheap labour despite the Government’s clampdown, and warned that numbers would continue to rise even after a permanent cap on migrant numbers comes into force next April.

Peter Skyte, of the trade union Unite, said: “It is a massive loophole. Our prediction has always been that the immigration cap would be all smoke and mirrors.”

The ICT scheme allows firms to bring non-EU nationals who are already on their payroll into the UK. It is widely used in the IT industry.

One Indian company alone, Tata Consultancy Services, sponsored 4,600 employees to come to Britain in 2008; another, Infosys Technologies Limited, sponsored 3,235 in the same year.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has said she will fulfil a Tory manifesto pledge by capping the “skilled worker” routes at 21,700 a year, but she agreed to exempt ICTs from the new restrictions following pressure from business leaders and Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary.

In the third quarter of this year, as the Home Office was restricting other immigration routes, more than 8,000 foreigners came to work in the UK under ICTs – up from 6,000 in the same period last year.

If the current ICT rate is sustained, more than 32,000 immigrants would arrive under the route each year, meaning the true number of migrant workers would be about 54,000 a year when capped routes and ICTs are added together.

Mr Skyte said Unite feared there were significant loopholes in limits imposed on ICTs by the Home Secretary last week.

Under the terms of the permanent cap, ICT workers earning between £24,000 and £40,000 a year will only allowed to remain in Britain for 12 months.

Mr Skyte said: “We think companies will simply transfer lower-paid staff for 11 months and three weeks, for example, and then they will be sent home for a few weeks and re-apply under a new ICT.

“There doesn’t seem to be anything in the rules to stop it.

“In other words, the number of people coming on ICTs could actually rise.

“The Home Office has also failed to take the chance to prevent companies counting allowances for things like accommodation as part of their gross pay, and it looks like some employers have sought to make as much use of the route as possible while current rules are in place.

“The Government’s announcement has squandered a golden opportunity to tackle abuse and misuse of ICTs.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the pressure group MigrationWatch, said: “There is clearly a build-up of ICT applications this year.

“While it is essential that staff who are seriously needed can get into Britain, this route will have to be watched very closely to avoid it becoming a loophole in the whole system of economic migration.”

On the possibility of workers exploiting the 12-month ICT rule, he said: “We have yet to see the details of this scheme but if it allows people permitted to come for a year to go home for a few weeks and return then it will rapidly become absurd.”

One British worker, who declined to be named but is employed in IT by a well-known bank, said: “Employers will find plenty of ways to abuse the system.

“Where I work now there are British workers being made redundant and at the same time ICTs are being brought in to replace them. The Government’s measures have had no effect whatsoever.”

Another IT worker said: “Sadly the IT business in this country is doomed, primarily because they have printed ICTs and other visas like confetti.”

Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: “The new immigration limit clearly sets out which workers we will allow into the UK job market.

“It has been drawn up following extensive consultation with businesses and reflects their views. But our view is clear: we need employers to look first to those who are out of work and already live in this country.

“The limit will allow us to protect those businesses which are vital to our economy, allowing them to attract the best and the brightest, but more importantly it will bring immigration down to sustainable levels.”

In the whole of last year there were 22,030 ICTs but in just the first nine months of this year the figure had already reached 22,520.

The quarterly total of ICTs has crept up incrementally since the beginning of last year, when there were 4,355 applications between January and March.

In comparison, in 1992 there were just 7,000 ICTs handed out during the whole year.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Immigration rules result in flood of bogus students

Serious flaws in immigration controls have been uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph only days after a chief government adviser called for a review of Britain’s student visa system.

New Home Office rules, which ministers promised would reduce the number of new arrivals, have actually led to a surge in applications

New Home Office rules, which ministers promised would reduce the number of new arrivals, have actually led to a surge in applications

Our undercover reporters have exposed a host of scams offered to foreign nationals desperate to come to Britain as bogus students.

New Home Office immigration rules, which ministers promised would reduce the number of new arrivals, have actually led to a surge in applications and prompted immigration officials to voice their concerns.

Thousands of bogus students are being handed British visas after the Government’s much-heralded reform of the immigration system created a major loophole, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

Whistleblowers within the immigration service have revealed for the first time that rising numbers of student visa applications have created a big global backlog because new Home Office rules left officials powerless to refuse fraudulent applicants.

Undercover reporters in three foreign countries have also exposed a host of fraudulent methods used in attempts to exploit weaknesses in the Home Office’s new “points-based” immigration system.

These include:

:: Fake “relatives” in Britain offered at $1,000 (£610) each, to make visa applications look more impressive.

:: Under-the-counter loans organised for foreigners to “prove” they can pay course fees and support themselves, although the money is handed back to the lender once it has appeared on bank statements.

:: Immigrants being advised to apply to a legitimate university and then switch to a bogus college once on British soil.

Last week, Professor David Metcalf, the chairman of the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee, said he was “stunned” by the number of colleges allowed to bring students into the country on degree courses despite them being “not proper universities”, and called for the scope of student visa sponsorship to be reviewed. A separate review is already under way after Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, last month called for a rethink of the student visa system.

The situation has worsened to such an extent, and created such a rush of applications, that one foreign government has already raised “concerns” about the points-based system with Home Office ministers, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Government officials in the Philippines alerted British consular staff to the large number of poorly-educated citizens who were heading for Britain on study visas.

Theresa Dizon-de Vega, Consul-General at the Philippine Embassy in London, said: “The Ambassador had a very productive discussion recently with minister Phil Woolas and officials of the UK Home Office.

“The Philippine Embassy and the UK Home Office agreed to co-ordinate closely and exchange information and views on various immigration-related concerns including the implementation of the new points-based system of migration.”

It is a major blow for the points-based system (PBS) which was meant to “raise the bar” and reduce the number of immigrants coming to Britain from outside Europe.

Devised by Liam Byrne, the former immigration minister who has since promoted to the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the PBS came into force for overseas students in March.

It requires students to have 40 points to come to Britain. Applicants receive 30 points for holding a course offer from a college or university, and 10 points for proving they can pay the fees and support themselves while in the country.

Sources within the UK Border Agency claim the PBS removed the discretion of entry clearance officers in British embassies around the world, who are now forced to approve applications if candidates demonstrate they have 40 points, even if they suspect the applicant is a fraud.

An investigation by this newspaper has exposed widespread abuse by visa agencies in India, China and the Philippines which are advising customers on how to get around the British Government’s requirements, with some admitting that most “students” were simply coming here to work.

One agency in Fazilka, in Punjab, India, made an extraordinary pledge, telling our reporter: “We guarantee an applicant a student visa within a month.”

At another agency based in a cramped, stinking building in Fazilka, close to the Pakistan border, an adviser told our reporter that students in Britain always find a way to work more than the permitted 20 hours a week.

In the Philippines, one agency offered to bolster a visa application by arranging for Filipinos already living in Britain to pose as members of the applicant’s family for $1,000 and also promised that course records could “be arranged” for a fee, even if the student had failed their exams.

The applicant would then be able to secure a place in a British college – winning 30 points required under the PBS – on the basis of fraudulent paperwork.

Agencies in China advised applicants to register with a bona fide language school or university, and then switch to a bogus college once on Britain soil, to make it easier to extend their visa.

Li Wiuling, an agent in Beijing, said: “You can change after you arrive, because the formal ones are expensive.”

She offered a “guaranteed” visa for 40,000 yuan (£3,500) and promised that anyone who failed to attend their classes in Britain faced little prospect of being discovered.

“There are so many people doing the same thing, they are all fine. There won’t be one risk out of 100,” she said.

Sources in the immigration service estimate that there are 5,000 immigrants in the London area alone who arrived here as bogus students and are working in the black economy, possibly with little intention of ever returning home.

Awareness of the Home Office’s new rules in countries such as China, Pakistan and India has led to student visa applications quadrupling in some areas, generating a global backlog running into tens of thousands, The Sunday Telegraph discloses today. Applications in Sri Lanka and Nepal are also believed to be increasing.

As consular staff struggle to process the mountain of paperwork, the backlog has reached 10,000 applications in Beijing and 6,000 in Bombay, sources told this newspaper.

The Home Office had already acknowledged a backlog of 14,000 applications from Pakistan which Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, officially blamed on computer problems earlier this year.

One source said: “Before the points-based system, Bombay was getting 150 applications a day in the peak application season but now it is getting 600 a day, which is why the backlog has gone up and up.

“At the moment there is massive abuse. The points-based system is utter nonsense and an utter farce.

“Without a shadow of a doubt you are talking about thousands of visas being issued to people who are not legitimate students and simply want to come to Britain and work.”

Insiders estimate that the visa section at the British Consulate in India has received 15,000 to 20,000 extra applications this year while in China there have been an extra 10,000.

Both the Indian and Chinese missions introduced a moratorium on new student applications eight weeks ago which remains in force in both countries. In an indication of the scale of the problem there are no plans to lift either embargo, sources said.

Last month it emerged that the number of student visas issued at Mumbai and New Delhi in India, and Dhaka in Bangladesh, was 6,771 between June and August last year, but this year the figure was 19,950.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “Ministers should be very worried if the new system is easier to exploit than the old one. They must act to reassure the public, and genuine colleges, that this is not another immigration disaster in the making.

“The borders agency needs to call in all applications that have come through these routes as a matter of urgency.”

A source said: “Under the old system under the Immigration Act, immigration officers could reject an application they believed was not legitimate. They don’t have that ability any more.

“As long as an applicant gets the points there is no flexibility for the entry clearance officer to reject the visa. It’s a terrible loophole.

“The government’s spin was that the PBS would make it much quicker and easier to spot false applications, but it has actually made things much worse.”

A Home Office spokesman denied there was a moratorium on applications and insisted that the rise in student visa numbers was down to the global recession and not the PBS.

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “The points-based system ensures that colleges and schools must be licensed to bring in foreign students, inspected by accreditation bodies and the UK Border Agency to ensure they are genuine, and take responsibility for their students.

“Before we tightened controls around 4,000 UK institutions were bringing in international students, this has been reduced to around 2,000.

“We continuously monitor our systems and where improvements can be made we will make them.”