Home Affairs keeps close eye on World Cup travellers

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pretoria - Airline liaison officers positioned at most major airports throughout the world have already prevented 79 travellers from boarding flights to South Africa.

The officers were deployed by the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that passengers without valid travel documents never make it to South Africa for the soccer World Cup.

The 79 people were stopped mostly at European countries, a few African and Asian countries, and "would probably have been carrying fraudulent documents", the department's deputy minister Malusi Gigaba explained.

The airline liaison officers have been deployed at international hubs - such as Mumbai, Nairobi, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Lagos and Frankfurt - all of which feed air traffic to South Africa.

The deputy minister was confident that the department could deal with the influx of foreigners during the World Cup.

He said the department had a 24-hour Operational Centre and was monitoring the movements of travellers through its Movement Control System (MCS), the Advanced Passenger Processing (APP) system and deployment of the airline liaison officers.

More than 450 000 foreigners arrived in South Africa between 1 and 13 June, Gigaba announced.

Figures for the same period in 2009 put the figure at a little more than 340 000.

"This increase of 32 percent can be clearly attributed to the 2010 FIFA World Cup," the deputy minister added.

In the past 24 hours, 5 000 passengers, who travelled to the country, specifically for the soccer tournament, were processed by the MCS, which facilitates the secure movement of tourists into and out of the country.

The system has also been able to detect 6 933 contraventions between 1 and 13 June. These contraventions included individuals overstaying their entry conditions and penalties for temporary residence permit abuses.

Most airlines had already bought into the APP system, which is linked to Interpol and allows the department to bar "undesirable elements (for example soccer hooligans and paedophiles) from entering South Africa".

Thirty-seven of the 54 airlines flying to South Africa had now signed up to the APP.

The APP has already helped the department track down, intercept, and deport a British citizen and 14 Argentinean hooligans.

"To further ensure the prevention of undesirable elements entering the country, the department is working closely with other security agencies," the deputy minister said.

From 1 to 13 June, 21 "hits were affected" through the APP and these travellers were denied permission to board because their travel documents were non-complainant with immigration requirements, Gigaba added.