400 more border guards to be deployed ahead of Easter period

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The Border Management Authority (BMA) will deploy 400 additional junior border guards at the busiest ports of entry in anticipation of an increase in movements during the Easter long weekend.

The junior guards, who will complete their training in the next few weeks, will assist with delivering services and providing law enforcement support. BMA commissioner Dr Michael Masiapato outlined the plan to increase security control at ports of entry over Easter at a media briefing on Monday. TimesLive reported him saying the 400 guards, who were recruited early last year, had started training in the middle of 2023.

They will have their passing-out parade next month and then be fully deployed. The junior guards will be intensifying access control across the entries into the port environment and make sure that all people who enter the port are legitimate travellers who are carrying the requisite travel documents.

Most of the additional border guards would be deployed at Beitbridge, Lebombo, Fiksburg, Maseru Bridge, Telle Bridge, Kosi Bay and Grobler’s Bridge. The BMA anticipates about one million people moving through the ports.

“The BMA is compelled to properly plan and execute a deliberate plan in order to ensure smooth and secure border operations during this period,” BMA Commissioner Michael Masiapato said.

“As a reminder to all the stakeholders, the BMA is mandated to facilitate and manage the legitimate movements of persons and goods across all our 52 land ports of entry, 10 international airports and nine seaports,” he said.

The facilitation of movement at the ports of entry is done across five key functional areas of immigration, port health, environmental and agricultural biosecurity, including access control and general law enforcement at the ports of entry and border law enforcement areas.

“During these facilitations, the BMA officials have to secure the ports environment against threats of illegal migration, smuggling, as well as trafficking of persons and goods.

“With this in mind, we have formulated comprehensive strategies and an operational plan to ensure that our deployments are responsive and ensure efficient port operations, with the requisite capability to deal with any security threats and/or risks, which may arise during the upcoming Easter period,” he said.

The Easter operational plan is supported by various law enforcement structures, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African Revenue Service (SARS), South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Cross Border Road Transport Agency and various traffic authorities.

“Since our establishment, the BMA has intensified its working relationship with the Immigration Inspectorate, which has the mandate to identify illegal migrants who are already in the country and ensure their processing for deportation to their respective countries,” Masiapato said.

He said in this Easter period, they anticipate about one million people moving through the country’s ports but, “the numbers for this year’s Easter period could escalate further as members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), one of our biggest churches in the region, is opening for the annual Easter pilgrimage to Moria for the first time since COVID-19.”

Masiapato said the BMA has engaged their counterparts in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini and Botswana, and they have agreed to extending operating hours at certain critical ports, which do not usually operate on a 24-hours basis.

The chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Committee on Border Management, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has approved the request to extend operating hours for selected ports.

Statistics for the 2023 Easter period showed that ports of entry, which facilitated the majority of the people were Beitbridge to Zimbabwe, Lebombo to Mozambique, Groblers Bridge to Botswana, Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg to Lesotho, OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, Oshoek to Eswatini, Kopfontein to Botswana and Caledonspoort to Lesotho.