Friday, July 24, 2009

Fears of Illegal Immigrant Wave for World Cup

Part of the writing process, on this blog, will be getting familiar with South Africa on a sort of daily basis. And to do that I have begun looking at the Web sites of some of its leading newspapers.

It was from that poking around that I found the item on this blog, below, about the search for World Cup volunteers.

And here is something else that seems to be a big issue. And we can relate to it. Illegal immigration, and South African fears that illegal immigration will rise during the World Cup, as illustrated in this Johannesburg Times news story.

To Americans, South Africa seems a poor and sick country. And, well, it is. South Africa has an annual per capita income of $10,000 -- compared to the U.S. figure of $47,000 (according to the CIA's 2008 statistics). South Africa also has an extremely high rate of HIV and AIDS cases, with one site suggesting as many as one-in-five South African adults has HIV.

But a per capita income of $10,000 is serious money, in Africa; enough to make would-be immigrants ignore those AIDS/HIV statistics.

The only sub-Saharan nations on the African continent with higher per capita incomes than South Africa are tiny, oil-soaked Equatorial Guinea ($31,400), Gabon ($14,400) and Botswana ($13,300).

As the Times story indicates, South Africa already has as many as 5 million illegal immigrants in a population of 47 million, and there has been violence directed at the foreigners by native South Africans who believe the newcomers are taking jobs and depressing the wage scale. (Sound familiar?) Africa is home to 15 of the 16 poorest nations on Earth, and two of them (Zimbabwe and Mozambique) have long borders with South Africa.

South Africa is, apparently, easy to sneak into under any conditions, but it is feared it will be particularly open before and during the World Cup, and that poor/desperate/starving Africans will slip into South Africa, in even greater numbers than usual, looking for work and hoping to take advantage of the economic stimulus of a World Cup.

Which could make for more violence and destabilize the government and the economy.

An event as big as the World Cup ... it highlights deep and complex issues we might not normally consider. And has ramifications we can guess at but not predict with accuracy.

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