Passengers 'on the run' after passport oversight

About 200 people who flew to Johannesburg International airport from Lagos, Nigeria, entered South Africa on Thursday morning without having their passports checked.

Department of Home Affairs spokesperson Nkosana Sibuyi told the Mail & Guardian Online on Thursday afternoon that the managers responsible, including the head of immigration at the airport, have reported to him about the situation.

“Right now, we know that around 5am this morning [Thursday] an airplane from Lagos, Nigeria, landed here [at Johannesburg International airport]. There were very few immigration officers around at that time to assist the passengers.
Because of that, not everyone got their passport stamped.”

All around the world, travellers need to have their passport stamped at an immigration office before entering a country. If they don’t, they are considered illegal immigrants.

There were about 200 people on South African Airways (SAA) flight SAA 61. Their nationality is unknown. Sibuyi said some people came back on Friday to have their passport stamped.

“I am still waiting for the exact numbers, but I can say that I am very happy with the element of discipline those people showed.”

What is still unclear is how many people are still “on the run”.

“We now work very closely with the airlines, because these people are here illegally. It is easy for us to trace them; SAA has a list of the passengers’ names.”

Sibuyi could not yet confirm what the department’s next step will be, besides checking the passenger list.

SAA spokesperson Jackie O’Sullivan said the airline does not have anything to do with the situation.

“The immigration office at home affairs is the one to contact,” she said.