The Africa Project for Participatory Society (APPS) has joined hands with People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) to lobby South Africa against mass deportation of undocumented Zimbabweans staying illegally in that country.
The groups said mass deportations of illegal immigrants could spark xenophobic attacks.
In a report titled Enquiry Concerning South African Residents’ Perceptions of Deportation and the Zimbabwean Documentation Project, released last week, the groups said: “The return to deportation of Zimbabweans was creating tensions and inconsistencies as Zimbabweans constituted the highest number of undocumented individuals in South Africa.
“APPS is concerned that there has already been a lack of communication from the Department of Home Affairs and in order to avoid further stoking tensions, there must be clarity and mass deportation must be avoided at all cost.
“The strong correlation between mass deportation raids and xenophobic violence, as was witnessed in 2008, compels us to urge the government for a more inclusive and carefully designed policy that strictly excludes the possibility of mass deportations.”
According to the report, 47% of respondents confirmed they viewed the Zimbabwe Dispensation Project (ZDP) as generally negative and that most South Africans had xenophobic opinions about foreigners for reasons such as overcrowding, consuming limited resources and jobs; while 51% of the respondents believed mass deportations would result in a violent backlash and that the deportations were ineffective.
“The research has revealed that the majority of respondents believe mass deportations are not only inhumane, but ineffective, and would encourage communities to respond with violence.
The most feasible solution to fight off xenophobic attacks is to grant long-term residents with permanent residents’ status,” the report said.
Although South African Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has ruled out mass deportation of Zimbabweans, ZDP head Jacob Mamabolo told a media briefing in Pretoria that “upon completion of the grace period, anyone found not to have documentation will be deported”.
Recently, South African refugee rights activist and Passop director Braam Hanekom said these policy inconsistencies had created widespread speculation and anxiety.