The Department of Home Affairs is working on a complete overhaul of South Africa’s immigration system, says minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Presenting his annual budget speech to the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday (8 June), the minister said details on the overhaul will be presented in the coming weeks, with the department already initiating the process.

While actual details on the new system are scarce, Motsoaledi is expected to announce several reforms which will make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to enter the country.

The announcement comes as the country faces an ‘immigration crisis’, with it becoming increasingly common for South Africans to sell their personal documents to foreigners who use them to unlawfully enter the country, Motsoaledi said.

“In the coming weeks, we will continue to arrest more people, both foreign nationals and South Africans involved in passports fraud and other forms of identity theft as well as corruption. The success of this unit has given confidence to members of the public about our commitment to fighting corruption.

“Members of the public give us credible information about corruption taking place at Home Affairs. We value this partnership and we follow up on each lead. We continue to be concerned about those South Africans who are willing to sell their identities.

“Such acts mean that those South Africans lose their status in the country, to be replaced by a foreign national. We urge South Africans to stop selling their identities,” he said.

Experts have warned that South Africa’s passport could be devalued further in the coming years as international criminal syndicates are increasingly using it for illicit activities.

Johan Burger, policing expert at the Institute of Security Studies, highlighted a recent incident where South African locals sold their passport information and documents to illegal foreigners as part of a large fraud syndicate. This risks compromising the entire country’s ID system and will put other countries on alert, he said.

“They would simply argue that they cannot rely on the South African authorities in terms of assuring that our system is effective and protected against fraud. It could compromise the credibility of all South African identity documents and make it difficult for South Africans to travel abroad,” he said.

Notably, the UK blocked visa-free travel from South Africa in 2008, citing security concerns about corruption within Home Affairs and the ease with which foreign nationals could get South African passports.

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