Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has confirmed that the Cabinet will consider comprehensive immigration reform proposals by the end of March and reiterated that South Africa is committed to increasing immigration-related workplace inspections immediately.

Key Points:

  • In a statement at the end of last week, Gigaba said the government has “initiated a comprehensive review and development of a new policy of international migration” and will present a new white paper to the Cabinet in March.
  • The white paper is expected to include the introduction of a points-based system for work permits, a new skills and education levy on employers of foreign nationals and, according to Gigaba, measures that will root out “exploitation of the system by economic migrants who capitalise on loopholes in legislation.” He also stressed the importance of establishing a Border Management Authority for better management of the border and points of entry.
  • Workplace inspections are likely to increase. Gigaba stated that businesses “contributing to questionable labour practices must be held to account.” He said the government would “target” businesses “that employ illegal practices,” adding, “There will be workplace inspections and penalties for employing undocumented foreigners will be imposed.”
  • The government recently arrested 63 workers for lack of proper documentation at three Spar supermarket locations. As a result of those inspections, two managers have been criminally charged and at least one more is facing charges related to the arrests, according to Gigaba’s statement.

Background: South Africa has seen an increase in anti-immigrant protests recently, including a demonstration in Pretoria Friday in which police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds. Gigaba’s remarks marked the second time in the last two weeks that he has addressed issues of illegal work in certain economic sectors. Last week, after meeting with business leaders in the hospitality sector, he said that the government will work to enforce rules to benefit local workers, including rules requiring certain companies to maintain a 60-percent ratio of local-to-foreign workforce. In his remarks last week, Gigaba tied the anti-immigrant sentiment of the demonstrations to businesses that do not follow immigration laws. “Business is a critical partner in managing anti-immigrant sentiments and more will be expected of them,” he said.

BAL Analysis: Businesses should anticipate an increase in the number of workplace inspections as well as stepped-up enforcement of rules designed to protect local workers. Thus far, the government seems to be focusing on the hospitality and food retail sectors in particular, but the Department of Home Affairs has also recently referenced other sectors, including construction and mining, as perceived abusers of the immigration system. While the specifics of pending migration reform policy proposals have not yet been published, BAL will continue to follow the matter and will update clients on significant developments as they occur.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in South Africa. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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