Home Affairs concerned by understaffing at OR Tambo
Despite existing processes being designed to optimally manage traveller demand at the country’s airports, under capacitation remains a vulnerability in the management of immigration and results in complaints about lengthy queues and delayed flights. This is according to Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni who briefed media in Johannesburg, on Friday.
Apleni said the department dealt with year- on-year increases in travellers as far as legitimate movements through OR Tambo International Airport are concerned. The average number of travellers cleared per month increased from 668 882 in 2015 to 669 621 in 2016.
“We are currently managing a four shift system per week reinforcing our day shift to deal with terminals experiencing a high volume of travellers. This still translates into a situation where more than 40% of our immigration counters cannot be operational at peak periods, given limited staff capacity and the need to balance shift operations over a 24 hour cycle,” he said.
The total number of immigration counters at OR Tambo International Airport is 87. Apleni said that even with a 100% staff attendance not all the counters can be fully staffed. “A 100% attendance is not attainable due to normal Human Resource factors,” he said.
The Department of Home Affairs has a mandate to ensure the effective and secure management of immigration and to facilitate the movement of persons through OR Tambo International Airport as one of its priority ports of entry. “We are continuing stakeholder engagements to improve service delivery at OR Tambo International Airport through partnerships aimed at improving communication, addressing resource requirements and exploring technology solutions to effectively resolve the capacity constraints,” he said.
In December 2015, the department introduced biometric capturing of travellers at four international airports, namely OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport and Lanseria.
Biometric capturing enhances the capacity to identify individuals and confirm the identity of travellers with the highest possible degree of certainty, security and efficiency. As part of the biometric programme, the department is in the process of piloting the linking of the movement of a child to an adult on the Movement Control System to ensure the continuous protection of children admitted to and departing from South Africa.
Apleni said the rollout at major identified land ports of entry was work in progress, but by the end 2016/17 it was projected that at least six high-volume ports of entry will be ready to assist travellers arriving from SADC states.