From the book: A Documentary History of Indian South Africans edited by Surendra Bhana and Bridglal Pachai

A fresh piece of legislation sought to tighten control over the entry of free Indians into Natal. Below, a petition submitted on 23 June 1903 by Abdool Caadir and others is reproduced. Source: N.P.P. 664, Petition no. 76, Natal Archives.

That your petitioners respectfully approach this Honourable House with reference to the Bill to place closer restrictions on immigration, now before this Honourable House for consideration.

Your petitioners, while accepting the principle of the Bill, beg to submit that further restrictions which are now sought to be imposed by the Bill in question are, in your petitioners' humble opinion, unnecessary.

They are:

The raising of the educational test . . .

Fixing the age majority at sixteen....

The necessity for an applicant for a visitor's pass to attend before the Immigration Restriction Officer, or other officers...

The requiring of a residence in Natal for a period of not less than three consecutive years....

The denial of the benefit of domicile to indentured Indians in spite of at least five years' service in the Colony.

Your petitioners would venture to discuss seriatim the clauses referred to above:

According to the last report of the Immigration Restriction Officer at Durban of the working of the present Act, it appears that only one hundred and fifteen Asiatics entered the Colony having passed the education test. Your petitioners submit, with due deference to the officer who has, in spite of the above figures, advised a higher education test, that the number that has entered the Colony under the test is very insignificant, and does not justify a higher test. In fact, the opening remarks of the Immigration Officer would go to show that the Act has worked very satisfactorily, and that it has to a very great extent answered the purpose for which it was framed. But if this Honourable House is of opinion that the education test should be raised, your petitioners humbly submit that this would be a suitable opportunity for granting the request of the Indian community that was made to this Honourable House when the present Act was introduced, namely, that the education test should recognise the principal Indian languages. Your petitioners would then cheerfully submit to a higher educational test all round. It may be mentioned that millions in India are totally illiterate, and they would, therefore, still be prohibited immigrants under the Law. Such a test, moreover, will free the Act from the appearance of being offensive to the Indian nation.

The fixing of the age of majority at sixteen will, your petitioners submit, be a very great hardship to those who are entitled to immigrate to the Colony, more so to the Indians. As this Honourable House is aware, Indian children are not withdrawn till after they have reached the age of over twenty-one years from parental control, and it will be a most serious thing for a domiciled Indian in the Colony to contemplate the abandoning of his children while they are yet hardly sixteen years; how close the family tie is in India, your petitioners need hardly point out.

Your petitioners trust that the requiring of the attendance of an applicant for a visiting or an embarkation pass before an officer is merely an oversight. An applicant may be resident in any place, and it is hardly to be expected that the Government would make provision for stationing officers at each and every place out of the Colony. It would, therefore, be manifestly impossible that an applicant could always attend before officers appointed under the Act for passes. Your petitioners, therefore, submit that the attendance of an agent before Immigration Officers should be accepted as sufficient.

Hitherto, a period of two years' residence has been considered as sufficient to entitle an applicant to claim former domicile in the Colony. Your petitioners humbly think that even that period is too long, but to raise it to three years would prevent many members of the Indian community from returning to Natal, although they may have businesses and connections in the Colony. It may mean, in many cases, very serious loss to individuals.

Your petitioners respectfully protest against the denial of simple rights of citizenship to indentured Indians, who have deserved well of the Colony. Day by day the indentured Indian is becoming more and more indispensable for the prosperity of the Colony, and your petitioners submit that he is entitled, by reason of his service, to most favourable consideration by this Honourable House.

Your petitioners would venture to make a suggestion with reference to the Bill in question.

Now that the whole of South Africa has come under British control, it is respectfully submitted that all those who are domiciled in British South Africa be free to enter the Colony unless they come under [certain] sub-sections of section 5 of the Bill. Your petitioners venture to draw the attention of this Honourable House to the fact that in the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope such a principle has already been adopted.

In conclusion, your petitioners hope that this Honourable House would take this humble petition under favourable consideration and grant the relief prayed for herein, and for this act of justice and mercy, your petitioners, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc.