Illegal Zimbabwean have until August
Policemen should know they can't arrest Zimbabweans for not having proper documents to be in SA until the home affairs department lifts the moratorium on deportations on August 1, Lawyers for Human Rights said.
"It is a positive move from home affairs to extend the moratorium on deportations," Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, head of the refugee and migrant rights programme said in a statement.
"We are however concerned about the continued arrests and harassment of Zimbabweans by [police]. We would encourage home affairs to formally communicate this decision to extend the moratorium to the police so that we do not continue to see Zimbabweans being arrested for immigration reasons, while the Zimbabwe documentation process is being finalised."
On Wednesday the department announced that a moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabweans who don't have the proper papers to be in the country, would stay in place until August 1, to allow for the 275,762 applications for the legalisation of their stay in South Africa to be processed.
June 30 has been set by the department as the target to finish the job, which was marked by queues of Zimbabweans snaking down pavements outside its offices to take advantage of the offer.
Ahead of a media briefing by the department, LHR said they were told that with the help of 38 additional adjudicators, expected to finalise about 60 applications a day each, 2280 permits would be completed daily.
According to LHR, by January 14, all home affairs centres should have submitted all applications to the head office in Pretoria.
On January 17, the department would meet Zimbabwean authorities to discuss problems with the issuing of passports, which was creating problems in the project, LHR said.
By February 4 all applications should have been sorted into categories including work, business or study, and outstanding documents, information and fingerprints should be requested.
By June 30 all permits should be adjudicated and issued to applicants through the home affairs centres where applications were received.
On receipt of a rejection notice, applications had 10 days to lodge an appeal. LHR advised people in this situation to comply strictly with the deadline, otherwise they can be deported.
By July 31 everyone who was successful should have their permit.
On Aug 1, the moratorium on deportation would be lifted.
How many Zimbabweans are in SA?
Estimates vary on how many undocumented Zimbabweans live in South Africa. Some sources suggested the figure could be as high as three million people.
Many Zimbabweans arrived for economic reasons during their country's economic meltdown.
They made South Africa their base, sending remittances to their families, and only travelling back for holidays, without keeping their paperwork, if they had any in the first place, up to date.
Zimbabweans caught without documents to be in South Africa were deported, but most returned swiftly, either by crossing the Limpopo River away from the border post, or via the multitude of buses and taxis plying the route between the two countries, to resume their lives in South Africa.