Illegal emigrants to get health services

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Minister of Health, Semano Sekatle

By Neo Kolane

The minister of health Semano Sekatle and his South African counterpart Joseph Phaahla are in talks following the issue of illegal Lesotho emigrants residing in South Africa, who are being denied access to health services in the neighbouring country.

This was disclosed by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro on Monday this week.

In his official address, Majoro revealed to Basotho nationals residing in South Africa that Lesotho’s ministry of health was in talks with South Africa’s department of health to allow for undocumented Lesotho nationals to access health services.

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The barring of Basotho nationals illegally staying in South Africa from obtaining health services has long sparked deep concern from the Basotho Diaspora Association (BDA).

President of BDA, Halieo Lelosa told theReporter this week a Lesotho citizen unlawfully staying in South Africa is required to produce the kingdom’s passport when seeking health services at a public clinic in that country.

Lelosa said: “It is a big problem that Basotho are barred from health services because they do not have travel documents of both Lesotho and/or South Africa.”

“When we contact these Lesotho nationals in a bid to find out their problems, we learn that they are denied health services for the fact that they do not have Lesotho passports. Even pregnant women who do not have such documents are barred from accessing the services resulting in them giving birth at unsafe places,”

 “Those who by inch of luck are enabled services are expected to pay exorbitant fees depending on whether they hold the passports or not. The charges range from as much as R2 000 to R15 000 although the services sought might be of a similar nature. The fees charged are not standardised,” Lelosa suggested.

“They are dubbed undocumented persons or illegal immigrants because they do not have passports,” Lelosa explained.

Lelosa said that BDA is in talks with that country’s authorities including those in Lesotho government to address the issue.

“We have also been doing more researches with International Organisation for Migration (IOM) which monitors the migration. The correct procedure is that when one is a dual citizen and they need services in South Africa they show the SA passports or Identification card so that they receive services faster.

“However, when one does not have documents, the services provided will be determined by health worker at duty that day, one might disagree or agree,” she said.

Lelosa said talks between the two countries are hanging on provision of what she termed a health docket to enable them to obtain health services at the public clinics in South Africa.

If the talks turn out to be fruitful the illegal immigrants from Lesotho will not be required to produce passports when they seek medical attention at government health facilities in South Africa, Lelosa observed.

The main objective of the association is to bring together Basotho nationals living in 41 foreign countries. It is run by volunteers who come from different work sectors. The association is entrusted with the responsibility to assist Basotho migrants who live in those countries.

Basotho migrate to various countries for numerous reasons such as job seeking activities. Some of them illegally cross to other countries thereby placing their lives at risk.

It is therefore the mission of the association to ensure the welfare of Basotho nationals living in foreign countries, where they face an assortment of challenges such as xenophobic discrimination, racism and abuse,” she said.