Bell tolls for Basotho in SA illegally
THOUSANDS of Basotho who failed to meet the 31 March 2017 deadline to apply
for the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) face deportation and even jail terms for illegally staying in South Africa.
The LSP, which was first announced in January 2016, is aimed at enabling the estimated 400 000 Basotho residents in South Africa to legally reside, work and study in that country.
The permit is valid for four years. The initial application process began in March 2016 and was due to end in June 2016. There have been two extensions since then, culminating in the final extension to 31 December 2016.
The Lesotho and South African governments however, agreed that Basotho with at least a birth certificate or identity card could fill the LSP application forms and pay the M970 fee while sorting out remaining documents which include the Lesotho passport, letter of employment and police clearance.
These should have been submitted on or before 31 March 2017.
And last month, Home Affairs Principal Secretary, Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela made an impassioned plea to LSP applicants to submit all the remaining documents ahead of the 31 March deadline, warning that deportations would immediately kick in after the deadline.
“It is not a secret that illegal Basotho migrants in South Africa suffered inhumane treatment ranging from unpaid work, human trafficking and many other painful stories that you have heard of,” Advocate Sekonyela said, adding it was against this background that they had negotiated more favourable terms for the LSP application.
“Illegal migrants’ miseries will soon start and although we understand their pain, we did everything in our power to address their problems like issues of human trafficking and employers robbing them of their hard earned salaries,” he said.
In addition, a statement posted on the South African government website warned that “from 1 January 2017, all those who have paid but have not completed the application process by end March 2017 will face deportation”.
“The names of those who have filled the forms but still have not completed the process will be referred to the ports of entry, for listing. This goes also for those who did not make any attempt to regularise their stay in South Africa.
“The amnesty and the moratorium not to deport will be lifted on 31 March 2017.”
However, despite these warnings, the latest information from the South African government’s consultants, VFS Global shows that out of an estimated 400 000 Basotho nationals resident in South Africa, only 93 755 applications had been processed.
“Of these 70 101 have been adjudicated by the Department of Home Affairs and to date, 57 858 permits have been collected.
“All those who have paid, but have not completed the application process by 31 March 2017 will face serious consequences. These include loss of work, study and business prospects, arrest and deportation. This goes also for those who made no attempt to regularise their stay in South Africa,” VFS said in its latest statement.