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Mos Def’s ‘World Passport’ not recognised by SA

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An immigration expert has weighed in on the case of U.S. rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), who was arrested in Cape Town last week for allegedly travelling on fraudulent documents, describing the case as a perfect example of the inefficiencies in South Africa’s new immigration laws. Bey, who has resided in South Africa for over five years, is alleged to have travelled into the country using a ‘World Passport’, a document that is not recognised by The Department of Home Affairs.

The World Passport is issued by the Washington-based World Service Authority, and while the organisation claims that over 150 countries, including South Africa, recognise the passport, it is believed to be more of a symbolic document used on a “de facto basis”, as opposed to one that can be used practically for travel purposes.

According to the WSA website, the World Passport makes use of an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

June Luna, immigration specialist at Craig Smith & Associates Professional Immigration Law Firm, said that as a U.S. Passport holder, it was unlikely Bey would have known that the World Passport would not have any practical use in trying to enter South Africa.

“It was issued, it has a scan-able barcode, and according to the documentation you receive with it, they say that it is valid for travel. He probably didn’t know that in terms of South African immigration law the only types of passports that are recognised are from the United Nations, The African Union, SADAC, or the African Development Bank,” she noted.

Bey has also come under fire after reports emerged that visa’s issued to the rapper’s spouse and child had expired in April 2014, meaning that a substancial period of their stay in the country could be deemed illegal. Luna said current regulations made it extremely difficult for someone already in the country to try and renew their visa, especially if they had overstayed their original visiting period.

“I don’t know for sure if that is the case, but I know he had not overstayed his visa issued in his American passport,” she stated.

Luna said Bey’s detention could have likely been avoided had Home Affairs checked its system to confirm all entries and exits to and from South Africa, which would have showed that in prior visits the rapper had entered the country using a U.S.-issued passport.

“They could have further questioned him as to where that U.S. passport was, but I don’t think the department needed to detain him for those purposes. They could have issued him with documents to have him return to the Department of Home Affairs to answer further questions,” she said.

Luna also described Bey’s case as an example that the Department of Home Affairs were having problems in implementing its own laws.

“A lot of people are in a situation where they don’t know what documents they must have to be here legally and what documents they can travel on. It’s a situation that highlights the inefficiencies of the department,” she concluded.

Because Bey has yet to make a formal appearance before court following his release on bail, he is effectively barred from leaving the country. VOC


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