Zimbabweans queue to meet S.African visa deadline

Queues stretched for kilometres at immigration offices in South Africa on Friday.

Zimbabweans queue to meet S.African visa deadline

South Africa allowed hundreds of thousands from Zimbabwe to enter without documents about two years ago when its neighbour was swept up in political violence and its already unsteady economy collapsed under the weight of hyperinflation.

More than 200,000 had already applied for visas, the Home Affairs Ministry said, far short of what non-governmental groups said could be as many as 1.5 million to 2.5 million Zimbabweans in South Africa, the continent's largest economy.

"We need an extension. There are just too many of us here," said Zimbabwean IT technician Phakamami Dube, one of the few who has received a proper visa.

The Zimbabweans fill a vast array of jobs, from menial labourers to highly paid professionals.

The deadline sets the stage for a mass deportation next year that could spark fresh violence directed at foreigners, after deadly attacks two years ago unnerved investors and rattled the government.

No extension

South Africa has extended working hours at immigration offices and eased paperwork requirements to make it easier to apply.

It has also said it will not extend the deadline. It will not begin deporting the immigrants until it has processed all the papers filed by the deadline, officials said.

Zimbabwe has deployed a team in South Africa to help process documents. But few expect the bulk of immigrants to relocate: Zimbabwe is mired in economic hardship, with most people earning less than a dollar a day, and per capita GDP is about 95 percent lower than in South Africa.

Reuters

Last Mod: 31 Aralık 2010, 16:45
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