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The immigration bill from a human rights perspective

6. Potential for corruption

The Bill recognises that the risk of corruption exists in the current proposals.11 It proposes that an internal checks and balances system be implemented in order to oversee and eliminate the prospect of corruption. This is a welcome move. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to the activities of corrupt officials as they are disempowered as a result of their migrant status and have no form of recourse.12 Corruption in the area of migration is endemic and any new legislation must tackle this issue head on and make constructive and effective proposals to rid society of it. Our history of corruption in this field is well documented.

Our immigration control regime is highly open to corruption. Reports show that some officials sell documents to immigrants who do not qualify—in one case, they are said to do so in a way which binds labourers to farmers in a feudal relationship. Allegations have been made that political parties register immigrants as voters to increase their share of the vote. It has been suggested that there is a widespread perception that anyone can become a legal immigrant if they pay an official enough money. Any system, which gives latitude to officials to regulate people’s lives, is open to corruption. But immigration control is particularly susceptible since it requires officials to implement a form of control, which is unenforceable.13

In order to address the issue of corruption it is essential to understand the context in which it occurs. It has been reported that [a] member of the Western Cape Aliens Investigation Unit [has] suggested that a possible reason for corruption in the police force when dealing with immigrants is that the police feel demoralised by their attempts to implement an unenforceable policy. Some have therefore given up, and instead attempt to use it to their own advantage.14

It is incumbent that we work towards an effective, workable piece of legislation that will be enacted to ensure that the future Immigration Act is not undermined due to its lack of enforceability.

  1. The White Paper, Chapter 11 paragraph 2.1.2.
  2. Report of the SAHRC op cit. note 25 at p xxviii ff
  3. See Friedman op cit. note 8 above; see also Report of the SAHRC op cit. note 25 at p xli ff
  4. Maxine Reitzes Undocumented Migration: Dimensions and Dilemmas Paper prepared for the Green Paper Task Group on International Migration, March 1997 found at

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