The dilemma of an African immigrant - CNBC Africa

The dilemma of an African immigrant

Southern Africa

by Trust Matsilele 0

Being a foreigner could be one of the worst nightmares faced by many who leave their countries of origin. PHOTO: Boston

Being a foreigner could be one of the worst nightmares faced by many who leave their countries of origin to seek greener pastures in more privileged economies.

The pastures do not always end greener like in the case of Ernesto Nhamuave- the burning man and Emmanuel Sithole - the man stabbed to death in South Africa's Alexndra township.

There are many other cases where immigrants die in seas trying to enter into Europe; these are a few cases of those whose cases manage to get into the mainstream media. For many their stories are never told. In all these cases - it's the pursuit of happiness.

(READ MORE: Kenya slams ‘only’ South Africans with strict visa requirements)

However, for many locals in South Africa and any other country receiving an influx of immigrants, they think their countries' fail to police borders.

South Africa, with a 25 per cent unemployment rate, has been battling to deal with anti-immigrant sentiment, with most poor people accusing foreigners of stealing jobs and other opportunities.

For a foreigner, both legal and otherwise, to be in South Africa, one goes through multiple gate-keepers which include electric fence, if from Zimbabwe along the Musina borderline.

South Africa is one of Africa’s most guarded countries in both air and road ports. The border is patrolled by the South African National Defense Force to ensure no illegals easily access the country.

Once one is in the country the issue of legality before they start working becomes of critical importance as working and employing an undocumented immigrant is in itself a criminal offense carrying a hefty penalty.

The country's Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba recently said his department will be clamping down on companies and individuals employing foreigners without working visas.

(READ MORE: SA government comes after companies hiring undocumented workers

Gigaba says the Home Affairs Department will invest 118 million rand over the next three years to employ immigration inspectors.

Other than curbing the influx of migrant labour, South Africa has also been working on strengthening the security of its citizens from possible attacks.

“I think from 9/11 security has become the primary concern for most countries especially western countries so most have been tightening their border controls. It is however different in Africa were borders are a combination of inadequate and outdated immigration laws, porous borders and corruption are endemic,” said Hong Kong-based security expert, Obert Hodzi.

Hodzi warned that as far as dealing with terrorists, Southern Africa was still lax.

“Apart from east and west Africa were transnational terrorist groups have been active most parts of Africa especially in Southern Africa do not consider security seriously. You can see with the number of people who cross borders illegally in and out if most southern African countries.”

The tightening of South Africa's visa system has also made it difficult for foreign nationals to access the country even as visitors and or tourists.

(READ MORE: Xenophobia shatters the South African dream: The human story)

According to a number of tourism experts, the new restrictions on obtaining visas could have a detrimental impact on tourism.

Reports said, while the number of European travellers to South Africa — most of whom will not require a visa — may be growing, India and China offered massive growth on a compound basis, far in excess of growth in mature markets.

According to media reports, Chinese arrivals dropped 50 per cent in the last quarter of 2014 with India down 15 per cent.