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Home Affairs allocates R25m to debottleneck OR Tambo customs

To accommodate the yearly increase of travelers at the OR Tambo International Airport, the Department of Home Affairs is allocating R25-million for the 2017/18 financial year to appoint 58 additional immigration officials.

This followed as the number of travelers using the airport increased to 977 961 from December 9 to January 14, compared with 948 477 for the same period in 2015.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday said that through the deployment of extra staff during this period, it became clear that the airport’s biggest customs challenge was resources. “OR Tambo as a strategic hub requires additional resources on a permanent basis. We plan to increase capacity [here],” he noted.

A further increase in staff capacity is also planned for the 2018/19 financial year, with an additional budget allocation of R17-million from the National Treasury.

“But challenges at OR Tambo are not only about staff shortages,” said Gigaba, noting that the infrastructure layout of the arriving and departing terminals was also a problem.

From December 9 to January 14, 5.5-million travelers were recorded across all ports of entry – an increase of 3.78% on the previous year’s 5.3-million travelers.

The biggest number of travelers, 1.6-million or 82.13%, of the 2.05-million foreign travelers arriving in South Africa, were from Africa.

“The 2016/17 festive season was marked by the increased movement of people and goods across border for different reasons, varying from cross-border employment, and business to academic and educational endeavours.

“We also observed a high number of travelers crossing borders for holiday and tourist purposes,” said Gigaba, adding that people felt safe when traveling to South Africa, as it did not hold the same terrorist threats other countries did.

However, he did point out that a Syrian national – a suspected extremist and known member of ISIS – had travelled to South African on December 16. Gigaba said the person was stopped and refused entry into the OR Tambo airport.