Because of Zimbabweans – Ireland looks to END visa-free travel for South Africans; officials say migrants using SA passports to enter

Because of Zimbabweans – Ireland looks to END visa-free travel for South Africans; officials say migrants using SA passports to enter

By Agencies

Irish officials are considering a significant change to their visa-free policy for South African travellers in response to growing concerns over immigration control.

The issue at hand is the unintended loophole created when individuals from countries deemed ‘unsafe’ by Ireland use South African passports to facilitate their entry into Ireland.

South Africa’s status as a ‘safe’ country helps expedite their asylum application processes, which is now seen as a significant flaw in the immigration system.

This loophole undermines the integrity of Ireland’s efforts to manage its borders and effectively process asylum seekers, a report by Justice Minister Helen McEntee read.

“The best way to ensure the integrity of our immigration system is to ensure efficient processing of international protection applications – that gives protection really quickly to those who need it, while also demonstrating to applicants who don’t need it that there is nothing to gain from going down the asylum route,” the minister said.

Zimbabwe and DRC migrants use SA passports to enter Ireland

Recent statistics from the Irish Department of Justice indicate that of all asylum applications processed this year, about 3% were from individuals arriving on South African passports.

This figure represents 198 cases where the nationality of the passport holder did not match their country of origin.

Such instances have raised concerns over the security and integrity of South African passports, following widely publicised incidents involving Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals using South African travel documents under fraudulent circumstances.

McEntee emphasised the need to maintain a robust immigration system that swiftly provides protection to genuine asylum seekers while deterring those with economic motives.

The introduction of ‘safe country procedures’ has already reduced asylum applications from countries considered ‘safe’ by 50%.

This statistic supports the argument that stricter measures could further prevent misuse of the system.

The upcoming Cabinet Committee on Migration and Integration, scheduled for next Thursday, is set to discuss this pressing issue in detail.

What could this mean for South Africans?

If Ireland decides to end visa-free travel for South Africans, it would mean a return to stricter scrutiny and the requirement of visas for travel, impacting not only the ease of travel but potentially affecting the broader diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries.

This could also impact the country’s passport ranking worldwide.

In 2021, Henley’s passport index placed South Africa at 57 in the global passport power ranking.

The Henley Passport Index ranks the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can travel to without a prior Visa.

South Africans are able to visit 71 countries Visa-free, with 29 countries requiring proof of Visa on arrival. This is a drop from 2020’s ranking of 52nd globally, mostly due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The South African passport was strongest in 2007 and 2008 when it was ranked 35th.