More and more jobless and ailing Zimbabweans who have nowhere to stay in South Africa are opting for voluntary repatriation instead of applying for now available work permits, it has emerged.
Ezra Moyo, an official with the Southern African Women’s Institute on Migration Affairs, told NewsDay in a telephone interview on Tuesday his organisation, working with International Organisation for Migration (IOM), repatriated 98 Zimbabweans last year.
“People are coming forward in large numbers for the voluntary repatriation programme. We are targeting mostly people who have no place to live and the sick. These people come here to South Africa and fail to get any employment and resort to living on the streets. Some of them are sick and no one is looking after them,” he said.
Moyo said the programme started on September 15 last year and took a break in December before resuming operations this month.
“We were working with IOM between September 15 and December 15 last year. We managed to repatriate about 98 people between that period.
We identified the people and linked them with IOM.
“From January up to date, people have been coming forward and we have been referring them to IOM and Catholic organisations here in Johannesburg,” he said.
Moyo said a lot of these people were choosing voluntary repatriation because of the hardships in applying for the four-year permit that was introduced by the South African government last year.
“There are challenges in getting the permits. One should be working and the money involved is beyond the reach of some of these people. Some of them are unemployed and they are sick,” he said.
Meanwhile, the South African home affairs department has said it has processed 50 000 permit applications by Zimbabweans to date and they hoped to clear the backlog by the end of July this year.
The department’s spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa told NewsDay they had set up 43 regional offices.
The registration for permits began in September last year and was supposed to close on January 31.
However, the department extended the deadline to the end of July this year after consultation with the Zimbabwe government.