Concerns about visas and long waiting times for asylum-seekers were raised on Saturday at an event held by the Diaspora African Women Renaissance.
Hosted by the women’s rights organisation at the Victory Theatre in Houghton, Joburg, participants included the Department of Home Affairs and immigration and human rights experts.
Ronney Marhule from the Department of Home Affairs emphasised the strides the department had made in its immigration policy, particularly for students. An amendment by the department granted student visas for the duration of their study if they attend any South African university, except Unisa, which is a distance-education university, he said.
“We have taken a number of good decisions, simply because we understood the difficulties that students have experienced,” Marhule said. “We are cognisant that, on a number of occasions, students were expected to return home and apply for extensions, and that affected their academic record.”
Foreign students face additional hurdles when it comes to immigration, education and finances, said Ozoemena Nwamadi, president of the National Association of Nigerian Students in South Africa.
“South Africa has grown so much since universities opened their doors to the outside world,” Nwamadi said. “Immigration problems in South Africa have not been favourable to foreign students. These challenges have discouraged a lot of people from continuing their education in South Africa.”
One attendee accused the department of not dealing adequately with corruption. “It is embarrassing as a South African to see how we treat our African brothers and sisters,” she said.