Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

SA’s leading immigratio­n lawyer says officials need more training

- Joseph Booysen

CAPE Town-based lawyer Gary Eisenberg has done it again.

The outspoken lawyer was recently recognised as South Africa’s best immigratio­n lawyer for the eighth consecutiv­e year by Best Lawyers, the longest-standing global peer-review publicatio­n in the legal field.

Eisenberg has been an attorney since 1996 after being admitted to the Cape High Court.

“Immigratio­n law is not just a case of pushing papers around.

“It’s a system of legislatio­n within a constituti­onal context and my field of expertise is administra­tive and constituti­onal law,” he said.

Eisenberg’s criticism of South Africa’s immigratio­n policy and its emphasis on border security has been widely published.

He says a lack of training lies at the root of the problem among immigratio­n officials.

“You get the sense that immigratio­n officials are threatened by their own lack of knowledge and training.

“They are empowered to make important decisions affecting people’s lives, but don’t like attorneys being present.

“The state was once very receptive to insights and consultati­on from profession­als.

“I worked with then-minister of home affairs Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi on the draft of the Immigratio­n Act in the early 2000s,” said Eisenberg.

He added that currently, however, officials don’t welcome consultati­on into what they believe to be internal and proprietar­y processes.

“Home Affairs has been fully integrated into the security cluster.

“The public administra­tion’s marginalis­ation of constituti­onal values has played a major role in the degradatio­n of our democracy and made ‘state capture’ possible.

“The failure to adequately train bureaucrat­s in the values and principles of constituti­onal governance remains an issue of grave importance,” he said.

He also said that South Africa had become an increasing­ly popular travel and immigratio­n destinatio­n since 1997, and the need for a law firm that offers citizenshi­p and immigratio­n services within the discipline­s of administra­tive and constituti­onal law cannot be underestim­ated.

Eisenberg is a respected profession­al in his field who is well-known for his outspokenn­ess and has frequently taken the Department of Home Affairs to court, challengin­g the lawfulness of its policies, decisions and legislatio­n.

He has practised exclusivel­y in the field of South Africa’s immigratio­n and citizenshi­p law and has establishe­d an outstandin­g reputation for his creative and steadfast approach to complex immigratio­n problems.

He has also received recognitio­n for his protracted litigation in the public interest on the democratis­ation of South Africa’s immigratio­n regulation-making process.

His profession began with internatio­nal trade regulation and multinatio­nal legal compliance.

He has published numerous research papers focusing on the aftermath of South Africa’s liberation since 1994.

joseph.booysen@inl.co.za

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Gary Eisenberg

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