LESOTHO had the dubious distinction of attaining third place on the list of “undesirable nationals” travelling to South Africa during the recent holidays after it was found that there were irregularities with regards to the travel documents of some Basotho nationals at South Africa’s ports of entry.
Thousands of Basotho were found to be in breach of various immigration regulations and the offences ranged from lack of travel documents, fraudulent documents and attempted entry into South Africa despite being barred from doing so due to previous offences.
This was revealed by South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, in a recent statement on the South African border environment.
Mr Gigaba said that it was inevitable that during holidays, travelers including Basotho would “attempt to cross the borders making use of fraudulently obtained travelling documents”.
“During peak periods, such as Easter, a high volume of people move through our ports and this movement presents a number of security risks and dynamics. It is demonstrated by the security dynamics and risks that include fraudulent or illegal stamping of travel documents by corrupt border officials.
“There is also the exploitation and manipulation of border systems and business processes. The facilitation of illegal entry of persons and goods perpetuates other security-related risks such as cross-border organised crime, illegal migration and social instability,” Mr Gigaba said.
He said the deployment of intelligence officers and inspectors of the Department of Home Affairs at the major ports of entry “led to discovery of 13 fraudulent Lesotho passports, 29 fraudulently obtained SA passports, seven fraudulently obtained SA birth certificates, two fraudulent SA identity documents and three fake immigration stamps which were used by a Zimbabwean national at Beitbridge to facilitate illegal movement of travelers across the border”.
“It is also known that there are taxi drivers who arrive at the ports with the bulk of passports which are facilitated illegally in order to extend the days of the passports owners in the country.”
Mr Gigaba said that during the 2017/18 festive season, a total of 13 320 undocumented travelers showed up at South Africa’s borders and of these, 4126 were Lesotho nationals.
Only Mozambique with 4820 and Zimbabwe with 4301 had more undocumented travelers than Lesotho seeking entry into South Africa.
Other nationals on this list were 18 Batswana, 16 Swazis, 10 Pakistani, seven Tanzanians, six Burundians, three Malawians, three Zambians, two Bangladeshi and a Ugandan.
There were also seven South Africans who attempted to leave their country without the necessary travel documents.
“Top five nationals declared undesirable were Zimbabweans (2907), Mozambicans (483), Basotho (443), South Africans (377) and Swazis (85). Furthermore 3063 travelers found to have overstayed in the country were declared undesirable for periods ranging between one and five years by the Department of Home Affairs.
“Among the port users who attempted to cross the borders, 4559 migrants were found to either be in possession of insufficient travelling documents to cross the borders of South Africa and/ or had outstanding penalties. Some attempted to enter the country even though they were prohibited to do so until such time that their undesirable period elapses (declared undesirable previously) and such travelers were refused movement across the borders,” Mr Gigaba said.
He further said that apart from illegal migration, smuggling was also conducted in close proximity to designated ports of entry. He said the border fence was cut to facilitate illegal movements in and out of South Africa and they had since deployed the army and police to curb the illegal practices.
“The deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) along the borderline assisted in safeguarding the country against illegal and irregular migratory movements.
“Interventions by the SANDF and South African Border Police officials eliminated the challenges and led to apprehension of majority of undocumented Lesotho nationals,” Mr Gigaba said.
He said in addition, South Africa’s health officials screened 142 390 travelers for infectious diseases and confiscated 7136 birth control pills, 2346 bottles of medicaments, 198 cosmetics, 528 insecticides, 24 packets of Viagra tablets and refused 74 human remains and 17 consignments entry due to non-compliance.