South African citizens should not apply immigration law – minister

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• SLEBO DISEKO

South Africa’s health minister has warned that it is not up to ordinary citizens to enforce the country’s immigration law.

Joe Phaahla was visiting a hospital in Pretoria where protesters from the controversial Operation Dudula group were trying to prevent foreign nationals from seeking treatment.

Operation Dudula has been accused of xenophobia, but its members say foreign nationals are putting a strain on the country’s health system.

Phaahla told reporters that an increasing number of people from neighboring countries – and from as far away as India – are coming to South Africa for treatment.

And he said if this continued, South Africa would reach a stage where they could not cope.

He said the constitution was clear on the right of everyone living in the country to access health care. Protesters continued to demand, in defiance of a court order, that people prove their nationality before entering hospitals.

It is alleged that people with darker skin have been targeted and forced to prove they can speak a local language.

Earlier yesterday, violence broke out between members of Operation Dudula and counter-protesters outside the hospital.

The police fired rubber bullets to disperse the two groups.

The government does not record the number of foreign nationals using health facilities, but there are growing concerns in South Africa about the impact of undocumented immigrants on the country’s health system.

–BBC

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