170 000 Zim refugees get new four-year permits
About 170 000 Zimbabwean asylum seekers have been allowed to extend their stay in South Africa by another four years.
The Department of Home Affairs opened applications for the new Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) in September. It replaces the Zimbabwe Special Permit‚ which was awarded to refugees in 2014 and is due to expire in December.
By Friday 169 078 people had applied for the new permit and visa offices around the country have been inundated with Zimbabweans looking to complete their registration and receive their new visas.
The new visa will allow those who qualified to continue to study‚ work and conduct business in the country.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of asylum seekers in the world‚ behind only Germany‚ the United States and Turkey‚ according to the latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report
Most of South Africa’s visa applications came from Zimbabwe.
Martin Munyardzi‚ 42‚ left Harare six years ago to look for work in South Africa and said news of the new visas came as a huge relief to him and his family.
“I normally have to renew my visa every three months. I spend the whole day [doing it] and I have to take off from work‚” Munyardzi said.
“This [new visa extension] is very good for us. It makes life easier and we can get proper jobs and have bank accounts. This process is much better.”
On Friday‚ Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni released a statement announcing the cut-off date for the ZEP applications‚ which was extended to January 31 next year.
Applicants are required to submit supporting documents and fingerprint biometrics to complete the application process.
“Indeed‚ we are thrilled by the rapid pace of applications for the new Zimbabwean Exemption Permit‚” Apleni said.
“A total of 72 612 applicants have completed the entire process. We reiterate that ZEP permits will be issued for a maximum period of four years‚ effective from 01 January 2018 and expiring on 31 December 2021‚ notwithstanding the date of issue.”
Apleni said that the exemption permits were temporary with long term view of having people return to their countries of origin “to build their lives anew”.