South Africa has given a month-long grace period to successful Zimbabwean asylum seekers to collect their paperwork and ruled out mass deportation of undocumented Zimbabweans living in that country.
However, the South African Department of Home Affairs said there would be no extension to the deadline, following its expiry on July 31 to compel illegal immigrants to regularise their stay.
Over the weekend, Zimbabweans in South Africa were panicking following reports that country would be resume mass deportations this week.
However, in an interview with NewsDay yesterday, South Africa’s Home Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said Zimbabweans were not being targeted.
“As we have said in the past, Home Affairs has not said anything about the deportations of Zimbabweans in particular,” he said.
“We are not targeting Zimbabweans, but anyone who is found without legal documentation will be deported.”
Mamoepa said there had been no extension to the process.
“We have just given a month-long grace period to give successful applicants time to collect their paperwork, there is no extension to the deadline,” he said.
“Zimbabweans will be treated like any other nationalities that will be deported when found without proper documentation.”
The grace period has come as a relief to many Zimbabweans, especially as the Home Affairs department is yet to finish issuing permits.
More than 275 000 out of an estimated two million Zimbabweans reportedly applied for permits under the exercise dubbed Zimbabwe Documentation Project.
South Africa has been a beacon for millions of asylum seekers from the continent due to its liberal immigration laws and stable economy.
About one in five of the 845 800 asylum seekers registered globally in 2010 reportedly sought refuge in South Africa, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.