/ 26 January 2007

South Africa tackles Islamophobia

South Africa is protesting to the governments of the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates -- among others -- which have refused entry to South African citizens with valid visas. It has also stepped in to put a hold on the listing of two South Africans, Farhad and Junaid Dockrat, on a United Nations Security Council watchlist that would effectively freeze assets they have abroad and block any foreign travel by them.

South Africa is protesting to the governments of the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates — among others — which have refused entry to South African citizens with valid visas.

It has also stepped in to put a hold on the listing of two South Africans, Farhad and Junaid Dockrat, on a United Nations Security Council watchlist that would effectively freeze assets they have abroad and block any foreign travel by them.

The Dockrats’ names were submitted by the US, which has informed the South African authorities that the Dockrat cousins will appear on Washington’s terror list whatever action the security council eventually takes.

Deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad (pictured right) told a media briefing this week that denying entry to ‘South Africans of Islamic faith are increasingly becoming a matter of concern to the [South African] government.

‘Increasingly, without reasons, South Africans travelling abroad, not only to the US, even with the relevant travel documents, are being deported upon arrival.

‘You are familiar with the case of Professor Adam Habib who is the executive director of democracy and governance at the Human Sciences Research Council.

‘He was scheduled to go to the US as part of the HSRC delegation to academic and non-academic institutions in the US and many foundations to have discussions, as they have done in the past,” said Pahad.

‘He had a valid visa, but was deported. He has appealed to us to try to get some clarity on the matter, because as an academic in the HSRC he has many reasons to travel to the US. Indeed, he has just been invited to go to a major conference later this year.”

Pahad said Habib’s deportation made it obvious that his name was on ‘some list” and that he would not be allowed entry to the US until the matter has been cleared up.

The deputy minister said the US Ports Authority had referred him to the State Department, which had not responded to requests for further clarification from the South African government and the HSRC.

It had also emerged that Habib’s wife and two sons had had their US visas revoked.

‘It is clear that increasingly South Africans, even with the relevant travel documents, will find themselves on some list which has not been given to us and will continually be deported from countries,” said Pahad.

He said there was now a system which provided for the worldwide circulation of names, ‘and you will not be aware of the basis on which you are being listed and deported”.

‘This is a matter of some concern to us, since it does indicate that unless there is some form of transparency, many innocent people will find themselves caught in this situation.”

Pahad said it was very difficult to advise South Africans on how to deal with such such setbacks, as the process was not transparent.

‘It is now increasingly common that South Africans who have been regularly traveling to the US are now being disallowed entry. Others had been denied entry into Britain, some European countries and the United Arab Emirates.

‘Unless we have a multilateral system in place to deal with this matter, increasing numbers of South Africans may find themselves on some listing,” he said.

Department spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said the department is in constant contact with governments refusing entry to South African citizens. ‘The Habib matter has only come to light because he is a high profile figure. These things have been going on for a long time. We are receiving complaints from South Africans all the time.

‘So we have been in touch with each of the governments mentioned. The Constitution enjoins us to intervene on behalf of our citizens.”

Pahad said government is talking to the US authorities about the Dockrat incident because this could have serious consequences for the individuals concerned.

‘Once you are on a UN Security Council list it is very difficult to get off,” said Pahad.

‘Lawyers for the Dockrats have informed us, through the media, they are submitting documents to Foreign Affairs and to the minister of intelligence. We are not in possession of these documents. They may indicate why the Dockrats have been listed.

‘South Africa’s position on the fight against terror is unequivocal — we are signatories to most of the UN and African Union conventions on terrorism — we are committed to fighting terrorism whereever it may occur, in whatever manifestation.

‘Our putting a hold on these names does not mean we are soft on terrorism — we just want to be certain that those listed have been listed legitimately.

‘Listed people, in terms of the 2004 law, could challenge any decisions taken in terms of listings in other countries. We must ensure we are not bogged down by expensive litigation in this regard.”

Pahad said the US, Russia, China, France, Denmark and Qatar had all placed on hold inviduals listed by the UNSC.