BMA prevents almost 300 000 illegal entries to SA in first year of operations

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The newest addition to the South African government’s security architecture – the Border Management Authority (BMA) – marked its first anniversary on 1 April making known it “successfully intercepted and prevented” more than 281 000 people unlawfully entering the country since border guards were first deployed.

BMA Commissioner, Michael Masiapato, used yesterday’s (Sunday, 14 April’s) BMA post-Easter briefing to highlight achievements in the first year of operations. “The BMA,” he said, “has taken full control of all immigration, health, agricultural and environmental functions across all ports of entry”.

The control now vested in the BMA, along with other border protection actions such as the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) tasking Operation Corona and SA Police Service (SAPS) operations on land and at ports, was proof of the benefits of a single integrated entity, rather than a multiple one in place previously. That had, in addition to police and soldiers, personnel from the departments of Home Affairs and Agriculture as well as SA Revenue Services (SARS) on hand at South Africa’s more than 70 ports of entry. Fifty-three are land-based with 11 international airports and eight seaports.

Reporting on the recent Easter period, which for BMA purposes ran from 26 March to 4 April, Masiapato said 3 841 people were prevented from entering the country illegally. Two thousand four hundred and three of these did not have any documentation, 1 019 were refused entry for being “undesirable”, with 419 found to be “inadmissible for entry due to various reasons”.

Most of the intercepts were at “vulnerable segments of the borderline” with deportation following after processing and being declared undesirable for five years. Most “inadmissible” individuals had invalid passports, fraudulent visas or failed to produce relevant documents such as valid yellow fever certificates.

All told, BMA personnel handled in excess of 1.1 million travellers over the ten day period – 24% more than last year.

Ekurhuleni’s OR Tambo International Airport, and the Lebombo and Beitbridge ports of entry were the busiest access points to and from South Africa over the Easter period, handling more than half a million people. OR Tambo racked up a people count of 217 855 with Lebombo, between South Africa and Mozambique, processing 157 069 and 153 118 travellers recorded at Beitbridge, between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Transport-wise, BMA officials processed 36 675 private vehicles, 1 893 minibus taxis, 1 309 buses and 2 621 aircraft. Two hundred and fifty-two vessels were processed of which just less than half – 119 – were crew changes handled by an off port limit mechanism. This facilitates and speeds up crew changes for ships not docking in South African ports.

Masiapato said that there was a decrease in the number of undocumented and unaccompanied minors arriving at ports of entry during the Easter period of 2024. Although this was a positive development, the agency intercepted five children at the Beitbridge port of entry on 28 March 2024. The children were handed over to the Department of Social Development and have since been returned to their home country.

“At this point, we would like to send a stern warning to all conveyers to desist from transporting illegal migrants in or out of South Africa,” Masiapato said, noting that eight penalties were issued to some bus companies found transporting illegal migrants in various ports of entry to the value of R270 000.

The border guards also managed to intercept and deny entry to about seven cargo consignments of meat worth about R9 294 551 which were destined to enter South Africa through the port of Cape Town due to non-compliance.

They also seized about 748 kg of non-compliant regulated agricultural products at various ports of entry.

BMA officials working with the SAPS arrested about 143 individuals for committing various crimes and transgressions within the ports of entry and the border law enforcement area over the Easter period.

“The majority of these individuals served as facilitators of illegal activities around the ports of entry and were therefore charged for aiding and abetting. Interestingly, one individual was arrested at Lebombo port of entry to Mozambique while in possession of 13 passports attempting to bribe an immigration specialist with some banknotes which were placed in between the pages of the individual passports,” Masiapato said.

In addition, about 641 kg of dagga with a value of R2 602 500 was seized and destroyed in both Grobler’s Bridge port of entry to Botswana and Caledonspoort port of entry to Lesotho.

Another joint operation by officials of the SAPS, South African Revenue Service and BMA seized 217 master cases of counterfeit cigarettes with a value of R3 351 690 at the Lebombo port of entry from Mozambique en route to South Africa.

Other operations include the interception of 573 items of counterfeit alcohol, 272 pairs of counterfeit clothing and parts of a Toyota Hilux 4×4 worth R150 000.