Migration Policy in South Africa (2023)

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Main recommendations

German and European lawmakers are eager to support not only South Africa's capacity to receive immigrants, but also broader regional integration efforts in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Specifically, European policy makers should support the harmonization of national entry requirements and border processes in southern Africa and the creation of circular labor migration schemes that can help curb irregular migration. Even slow progress on regional mobility would send a clear signal to other similar African activities, even in regional economic communities closer to Europe.

German and European lawmakers should take a look at South Africa for themselves: South Africa began securing its migration policy years before Europe, and here, as in Europe, the benefits remain nebulous. It is unclear, to put it mildly, whether South Africa's deterrence of new arrivals or reduced asylum capacity has actually led to fewer arrivals. It is clear that the deterrent approach has put pressure on the migration system, has reduced its functioning and increased the likelihood that migrants will resort to irregular routes. A thorough assessment of the shortcomings of securitization by European countries themselves would be fruitful.

German and European lawmakers should look beyond the obvious migrant partners they are looking for in North and West Africa. They should initiate structured migration talks with countries that may be more geographically distant, but whose power as migration magnets extends as far as they can shape mobility on the African continent and beyond. South Africa may not be Europe's closest African neighbor, but it can and should become the continent's main migration partner.

South Africa as a Destination Country: Five Classic Characteristics


Migration is an important feature of South African history. The country is built on migration, be it internal migrants moving from rural to urban and industrialized areas, or migrants from neighboring countries going to South Africa as servants in search of work and a better life for themselves and their families.

South Africa has long been a major destination country for the region, but migration patterns have changed since the 1990s. With the easing of apartheid policies in the 1990s leading to the collapse of the apartheid system in 1994, South Africa has evolved towards a more inclusive one. a diverse and open society and more regular migration from other African countries emerged.

However, despite this long history, migration and the place of migrants in South Africa remain controversial both in policy and in practice. This is reflected in the way migrants are spoken and treated. Migration myths abound: in the current discourse on migration in South Africa, immigrants are often portrayed as being responsible for the country's crimes, draining resources, and claiming to take advantage of opportunities that should be reserved for South Africans. Nuances are often missing. In the worst case, xenophobic attitudes manifest themselves in violence directed against foreigners, mainly from other African countries.

South Africa's migration policies and practices reflect developments in other destination regions in Africa, Europe and around the world. Faced with high immigration rates, especially coupled with a fragile domestic labor market, destination governments tend to resort to restrictive immigration and protection systems. Migration is becoming a controversial and publicized issue and can fuel misconceptions and anti-immigrant sentiment. South Africa, which is home to a fifth of all migrants in Sub-Saharan Africa, is no exception. While South Africa benefits from foreign labor, it imposes stricter labor migration and border management laws. The wave of domestic crime in South Africa after 1994, partly related to the growing number of migrant workers and refugees, prompted the authorities to drastically reduce access to asylum and permanent residence and to increase the number of returning migrants. These moves show a largely introspective approach to migration management, favoring securitization over inclusiveness and regional integration, but have done little to reduce long-standing problems such as corruption and the growing backlog of the country's asylum system.

This document sets South Africa as an example for other migratory destinations, both within and beyond the African continent. In addition, the paper raises three questions: To what extent does the case of South Africa show similarities with Europe as a migration destination? To what extent does South Africa illustrate the challenges of other destination countries in Africa? And what can European and German politicians learn from the experience in South Africa?

The first part describes how five common features of the main destination regions for migrants have shaped South Africa's migration policy in recent years: the increase in immigration, the debate on illegal migration, the rise of xenophobia, the dominance of deterrence policies and the difficulties of reconciliation. regional migration policies for free movement. The second part provides specific recommendations on what European politicians can learn from the experience in South Africa and what they can do to support a migration policy that works better in Africa's main destination region. South Africa may not be Europe's closest neighbour, but the challenges they share as migratory magnets should encourage Europeans to learn from their experiences, identify areas of common interest and use these relationships more strategically.

While the main focus of this article is South Africa's policies and practices adopted and implemented by the state, the perspectives of South African society as a whole are also reflected. Perception does not always translate into reality, but the case of South Africa shows how perception can frustrate political efforts towards a cohesive and inclusive society. There are other important issues that are part of the migration discussions in South Africa, such as issues such as asylum seekers, international protection, brain drain, internal migration, human trafficking and smuggling. outside the scope of this case.

South Africa as a Destination Country: Five Classic Characteristics

Growing Migration to South Africa:Make a migration magnet

The demand for workers has made South Africa a major destination country in Africa. Historically, regional mobility to South Africa has been driven mainly by increased demand for labor in the mining industry. For example, between 1940 and 1980, approximately 1.5 million immigrants from neighboring countries were employed as miners and agricultural workers, and an additional 1.7 million workers were employed in Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini in the 1980s 1990-2000 (formerly Swaziland) through the African Employment Office.

More than nine out of ten migrants in South Africa live in South Africa alone: ​​more than 4.2 million out of a total of 4.5 million migrants

Today, migration is an important part of the regional dynamics of southern Africa, where mobility is still predominantly circular. South Africa hosts the majority of all migrants in the region. More than nine out of ten South African migrants live in South Africa alone: ​​over 4.2 million out of a total of 4.5 million migrants (see Figure 1). About one-fifth of the 23 million migrants in Sub-Saharan Africa live in South Africa. This makes South Africa the 10th highest net immigration and emigration in the world.


(Video) Reasons for Labour Migration Policy in South Africa

Although the decline in mining employment has led many migrant workers to unregulated labour-intensive sectors of the economy such as domestic work, construction and agriculture, important migration corridors still connect semi-skilled migrants to South African mines and farms, e.g. Africa. Africa and Zimbabwe-South Africa. Today's larger diasporas in South Africa are the result of these long-term regional migration flows. Seven out of ten foreign-born South Africans come from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho, with a smaller proportion of immigrants coming from other parts of southern Africa as well as West and East Africa and Western Europe, especially the United Kingdom (UK). ) (see figure 2). South Africa's post-apartheid political stability has also provided shelter to refugees fleeing conflicts in neighboring countries such as Mozambique and Angola or further afield such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).


Women make up a significant proportion of migrants: in 2019, women accounted for more than 44% of international migrants in South Africa. Regionally, women are estimated to account for 70% of informal cross-border traders and account for 40% of all trade in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Data from the 2011 Census and the 2012 and 2017 Quarterly Labor Force Surveys (QLFS) show that around one in four South African migrant women work as domestic workers, often with little or no employment protection at all.

Irregular migration:Scope unclear, controversial debate

Illegal migration is hotly debated in South Africa, but its extent remains unclear. Reliable figures are scarce, with official estimates ranging from 500,000 to more than 2.2 million people living illegally in South Africa (estimates much higher than 11 million are unlikely). Given the country's population of about 60 million, it is estimated that undocumented immigrants make up between less than 1 percent and about 4 percent of the total population.

The fragmentation of the foreign recruitment system has contributed to spontaneous and informal cross-border movements. In the absence of legal routes, many low-skilled migrants from the rest of Africa enter the country illegally or undocumented, or violate visa conditions after legal entry, accepting work on a tourist visa or overstaying, including both sub-regional and non-sub-regional immigrants, especially Horn of Africa.

As elsewhere, irregular migrants are at greater risk of discrimination and exploitation by corrupt government officials, but the problem is particularly pronounced in South Africa. Corruption is rampant among Home Office officials, according to reports. There is evidence that migrants experience corruption at many stages of the documentation process, with existing laws and standards driving the illegal document market. Despite clear efforts to tackle the problem over the years, Home Office officials themselves estimate that up to 85 percent of employees are guilty of corruption. The Home Office also says illegal migration leads to corruption.

For much of South Africa's history, undocumented migration from the region was state-sanctioned and sometimes included in labor supply schemes.

The current situation of irregular migrants is rooted in the history of denial of residence and citizenship to migrants from Africa. For much of South Africa's history, undocumented migration from the region was state-sanctioned and sometimes included in labor supply schemes. Until the 1960s, people from Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini were free to travel to and from South Africa and live and work in South Africa. But during apartheid, immigration was determined by the "two doors" policy. White migration was deemed desirable, and so they were allowed to enter through the "front door" because their presence posed no threat to the "European culture" that the apartheid state attempted to foster. . Meanwhile, African immigrants often entered the country "through the back door", tolerated only because they met the need for labor in mining and agriculture. This "back door" was characterized by police, detentions and deportations. The situation was exacerbated by policies restricting access to black South Africans outside of "homelands".

Xenophobic language and attacks are widespread

Xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment are rampant in South Africa. For example, in the 2001 national survey of South African citizens by the South African Migration Program (SAMP), nearly half of the respondents believed that immigrants were a "crime threat" and 37 percent thought they were a threat to jobs and economy. and 29 percent considered them a health risk.

Economic concerns have a particular impact on the marginalized and poor black majority under pressure from poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity: the unemployment rate is a precarious 29.1 percent as of 2020, with higher youth rates. Immigrants and refugees in South Africa are often accused of "stealing" jobs from the local population, especially since unemployment among foreigners is well below the national rate.

The results of the investigation contradict this story. The 2014 Migration for Work Research Consortium (MiWORC), the 2018 OECD-ILO study and the 2018 Stats South Africa labor market performance report show that while unemployment among migrants is lower than among South Africans, this does not automatically mean that they are "stealing" jobs from South Africans, as they often take jobs that local people do not want to take in services, agriculture, construction and, to a lesser extent, the industrial sector. As in other destination countries around the world, migrants often find employment in insecure and unregulated environments due to lower entry costs, but also because of the many barriers to entry into the formal labor market, including difficulties in obtaining and renewing legal documentation, accessing services and opening bank accounts.

Xenophobic sentiments also characterize the language and terms South Africans use to talk about immigrants. Non-citizens are referred to as "foreigners" or "foreigners", but pejorative colloquialism"Net"it is also common. Public discourse often evokes images of mass migration with metaphors of "waves", "floods" and "swamps" that supposedly engulf the land. The climate of hostility is further perpetuated by the media and political discourse. For example, politicians have argued that undocumented immigrants are responsible for the state's inability to effectively serve society, the increase in crime and violence in communities, and other social problems. The adoption in 2019 of the action plan against xenophobia has done little to effectively combat xenophobic speech.

Violent physical attacks against foreigners are common in South Africa, especially against African and South Asian foreigners. In May 2008, a series of outbursts of violence against foreigners marked the culmination of a persistent climate of xenophobia in the country. More than 60 people were killed, more than 600 injured, and tens of thousands were displaced and took refuge in churches and police stations, especially around Cape Town and Johannesburg. The police services reacted too late and few cases were finally opened.

In fact, many consider violence to be justified: The 2017 Human Sciences Research Council Survey of Social Attitudes found that 71 percent of the South African population cited the threat of migrants as the main explanation for violence against migrants; one third of the respondents answered that xenophobia is a reaction to the criminal activities of foreigners; and almost 40 percent. responded that it was a response to the economic activity of foreigners.

(Video) Delay in implementing Digital Migration Policy deny SA households universal access to information

Layers of Migration Management in South Africa

Different actors shape migration policy and debates in South Africa (see Figure 3). At the national level, immigration matters are handled by the Department of the Interior (DHA). It is responsible for all immigration and civil matters, including managing and regulating migration within and outside the country. Other entities carry out tasks related to migration and the presence of migrants, e.g. Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Department of Human Development (DSD), South African Statistics (Stats SA), Department of Human Settlements (DHS), Department of Health (DoH), South African Police (SAPS), South African National Defense Force (SANDF) ) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

All these actors meet in the Interdepartmental Committee (CMI) on Population Policy, which provides the space to coordinate migration and urbanization. Despite these coordination efforts, tensions may arise between the actors and their respective mandates.

In addition to the national government, provincial and metropolitan authorities also play a key role in migration issues. In the province of Gauteng (which includes the capital Pretoria and the economic center of the country, Johannesburg), the provincial government, its executive branches, the cities of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane, the mayor's offices and local councilors work together with the government.

Various other entities outside the government also shape policy. These include traditional media, social media, host and migrant communities, think tanks and academia. Regional and continental intergovernmental actors such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Southern African Migration Dialogue (Joint IOM-SADC Policy Process on Migration) and the African Union shape migration discourse and policy at regional and national levels. Finally, international actors act as donors, advocates and service providers, namely the IOM, the UN Refugee Agency, the ICRC, the EU and national European foundations.


South Africa's migration policy:Enforcement and deterrence first

While South Africa's migration policy is balanced on paper, in practice it tends towards deterrence and law enforcement. South Africa's current vision for migration policy is outlined in the 2017 White Paper on International Migration prepared by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The document comprehensively covers all areas related to inbound and outbound migration. It promotes a balanced approach that recognizes the opportunities for regional and international migration on the one hand and the shortcomings of the current system on the other.

Overall, the White Paper proposes six main approaches. First, it presents a risk-based and guaranteed approach to migration to protect South Africa's sovereignty and the security of its citizens. Second, it seeks to eliminate a system that perpetuates illegal migration, which in turn "leads to unacceptable levels of corruption, human rights violations and threats to national security." Thirdly, it points to the problem of national attitudes towards migration. Fourth, it addresses the gaps between South African law and SADC objectives. Fifth, he wants to end a system that perpetuates "colonial patterns of production and labor trade," reserving the right to migrate to people with high skills and capital. Sixth, it aims to expand the immigration of highly skilled workers while reaffirming national labor preferences.

The White Paper should serve as a model for reviewing and updating existing legislation: the Refugee Act 1998 and the Immigration Act 2002 have already been amended accordingly, the Citizenship Act 1995 is under review, one of which is the on authorities and border management. . new laws that the country has adopted since the White Paper (see Figure 4).

However, the provisions revised or developed on the basis of the White Paper do not show a balanced approach of the document, but a stricter approach. The effects of this approach are visible in three main areas: immigration, asylum and border management.

Immigration: more arrests of illegal migrants


The Immigration Act Amendment Act 2018 (which includes proposed amendments to the Immigration Act 2002 that have not yet been enacted) adds provisions for detaining "illegal aliens" for deportation. While these measures are presented as solutions to an overburdened immigration system, there are three concerns about this "detente and deport" policy. Firstly, the Ministry of the Interior has a poor record of running detention centres. In 2014, the South African Human Rights Commission detailed human rights violations at the Lindel Repatriation Center, including procedural violations, inhuman and dangerous conditions, violence, and the illegal detention of large numbers of people. Secondly, the detention approach runs counter to the African Union's Common Position on the Global Pact on Migration. In particular, the position calls on all countries to discourage and dismantle immigrant detention, regardless of the legal status of migrants, given the risk of human rights violations. Third, the evidence shows that detention does not really stop migration. On the contrary, it encourages migrants to take more risks. This can undermine other outcomes of migration management, such as limited caseloads, shifting of resources and clogged justice systems.

Refugee and asylum trials: discouraging entryfor protection

Access to the South African refugee and asylum system is difficult for a number of reasons. First, waiting times are long and the quality of decisions varies. The country's refugee processing system is plagued by a long backlog, although the number has been significantly reduced from one million in 2016 to over 150,000 today. Most asylum seekers wait several years for their application to be processed, which means that the number of asylum seekers is increasing (Figure 5). At the same time, the country has a particularly high asylum rejection rate of 90 percent. While the government uses this figure to justify its restrictive measures, refugee advocates and others question the poor quality of refugee status recognition processes and outcomes. In 2016-2017, more than 1,200 immigration and 1,900 asylum cases were brought against the DHA. Recent statements by the judges who overturned the refusals included strong allegations about the state of the asylum system. These included labeling them "incompetent" and "regrettable" and accusing DHA officials of "gross disregard of the law, dereliction of duty and ill will".


The DHA seems to follow the logic that reducing the incentive for immigrants to apply for asylum would reduce the number of applications and enable a more transparent and flexible system. However, this logic is based on the erroneous assumption that the asylum system is affected by the large number of asylum seekers, not by a flawed application process itself.

Second, DHA also makes it harder for asylum seekers to apply and renew their documents at so-called Refugee Admissions Offices. Starting from 2011, it closed or limited access to offices in urban centres, forcing applicants to go to offices in border areas and putting more pressure on other offices. The 2017 White Paper went further and proposed the establishment of asylum processing centers to host asylum seekers during the determination process. The DHA does its best not to label them as detention centers, but the proposed methods mirror detention centers in all but name. The human rights costs are high and well documented, as are the financial costs. The construction of one processing center will cost around 298 million rand (€17,600,000), not including operating costs.

Finally, the legislation also aims to reduce the attractiveness of seeking asylum in South Africa. For example, the 2017 amendment to the Refugee Act abolished the automatic right of asylum seekers to work, study or run a business. Other important changes have expanded the grounds on which refugee status can be revoked (e.g. by applying to your embassy's consular services) and have given DHA the power to close or designate a refugee reception office.

Border management: building a Stop and Take policy.

The task of managing South Africa's borders rests with at least seven different government departments operating at the ports of entry (air, land and sea). This has proven to be a nuisance given the volume of migration to and from South Africa. Accordingly, the Border Management Authorities Act 2020 establishes a single authority to oversee all aspects of the border environment: the Border Management Authority (BMA) will report to the DHA, making it the lead authority for all border related matters. The BMA came into force in July 2020 and will be implemented in phases over 15 years.

(Video) South Africa Migration History (1 of 3 in series)

Overall, the establishment of the BMA is a positive step towards effective and coherent management of borders and border ports. However, other government agencies (such as the police, defense and prosecution) and think tanks (such as the ISS) have expressed serious concerns about the DHA's ability to lead the initiative and to securitize borders and threaten corruption and fraud more broadly. The main problem is that the establishment of the BMA fuels South Africa's longstanding "arrest and deport" policy, despite high human and financial costs and questionable effectiveness.

Hesitation towards regional free movement

Unlike other migrant magnets on the African continent and beyond, South Africa's stance on regional integration and free movement is marked by protectionist concerns. About 75 percent of all African migrants in southern Africa come from this region. As a major recipient of regional migration, South Africa is concerned about a possible surge in immigration from neighboring countries. This sometimes hinders constructive dialogue with other SADC countries: South Africa favors smaller bilateral and multilateral agreements on labor mobility. To this end, it established three Joint Standing Commissions (JPCs) with Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini and concluded four Memoranda of Understanding on labor migration with Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini and Namibia. It should be noted that other larger economies within the regional bloc, such as Botswana and Namibia, also have some concerns about free movement in the region.

South Africa's immigration policy is not sufficiently in line with its commitment to increasing freedom of movement on the continent.

The publication of the 2017 White Paper seemed to indicate a certain readiness of South Africa to deepen regional integration. The document acknowledged that South Africa's immigration policy was not sufficiently in line with its commitment to increasing freedom of movement on the continent. The document aims to remedy this and solve the problem of illegal migration from neighboring countries by proposing the introduction of new visa options for low- and medium-skilled immigrants from the SADC region. These include the SADC Special Work Visa, the SADC Merchant Visa, and the SADC Small and Medium Business Visa for Self Employed and Small Business Owners.

But the White Paper also contains various other proposals that hinder rather than encourage regional mobility. For example, it suggests adopting a points-based immigration policy for skilled workers, based on the experiences of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, to replace the current employer-centric approach combined with a list or quota of critical skills. In fact, such a strategy would complicate the migration of low-skilled workers, who account for a large proportion of total mobility in the region.

Regional policy is also ambiguous. Eighty percent of SADC nationals benefit from visa waivers or short stay visas upon arrival (up to 90 days) to other SADC Member States thanks to the 2005 SADC Protocol to Facilitate Movement of Persons (see Figure 6). The SADC Additional Protocols facilitate the mobility of certain categories of persons, such as diplomats and students. In fact, however, the 2005 protocol encourages Member States to conclude bilateral agreements, especially on border issues, which then take precedence over the non-binding protocol. As a result, regional migration is reduced in the long term: in order to stay in another SADC country for more than 90 days, migrants must comply with national regulations and undergo lengthy and costly bureaucratic vetting. Those who are unable to provide the necessary documents can extend their visa or choose non-scheduled routes as an alternative.

The trend is clear across the region: governments seem reluctant to invest in regional integration in terms of migration. Few countries in the region have made significant progress towards regional harmonization of immigration procedures, despite the work of the IOM-SADC Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA). Again, the safety lens could dampen the political appetite for SADC free movement. Member States often resort to "emergency measures" to manage migration, especially when there are serious security concerns such as violent extremism and terrorism in parts of northern Mozambique. However, the pervasive 'securitisation' approach seems to have undermined the ability of regional authorities to reduce transaction costs and achieve win-win outcomes – all pillars of functioning and mutually beneficial free movement systems.



South Africa's migration policy may sound strange to European ears, but this report shows that many elements of South Africa's migration policy and debate should sound familiar, be it securitization, an increasingly toxic approach to migration, security systems, flawed safeguards or controversial attempts to harmonization of migration. . schemes in all regions.

The following recommendations outline lessons learned from the South African experience and highlight common areas of concern that German and European politicians, policy experts and practitioners should consider in their discussions with their South African counterparts.

1. Recognize a pear when you see it.

South Africa is one of the main destinations for migrants and refugees in Africa. Political decision-makers in Germany and Europe are, of course, aware that migratory flows in Africa go far beyond migration from the north to European shores. However, their approach to African countries often remains tainted by stereotypes of African countries as major countries of origin or transit, apart from many destination countries, some long-term (such as South Africa) and some emerging countries (such as Morocco, Tunisia or Ghana). The fact that most movements in Africa are regional and circular, with a few imams across the continent receiving most African migrants, is acknowledged rhetorically but not always politically.

Recognition of the equality of African countries in migration issues can significantly contribute to improving communication between continents. This is more important now than ever as Europeans enter a critical moment in their relations with their African partners, with the EU's Comprehensive Strategy for Africa and the implementation of the post-Cotonou agreement with the Organization for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. (OACP).

2. Learn from our mistakes: evaluate the costssecuritized approaches to migration

As this report shows, South Africa has heavily restricted access to immigration and asylum and has invested in border management and deportation. However, given the lack of available data, it is unclear whether the policy actually reduced the flow of immigrants. The South African authorities admit that such a policy is costly, and human rights groups say it is incompatible with the rights of refugees. However, the authorities did little to address the shortcomings in the system, in particular delays and corruption, which were in fact compounded by the closed and/or limited reception offices for refugees.

(Video) South Africa's Digital Migration Saga

South Africa's experience should lead policy makers in Europe to consider the costs that securitized approaches to migration management may entail, especially if they fail to simultaneously improve their crisis-ridden asylum systems. This is crucial globally as the number of migrants and refugees is at a record high and is likely to continue to increase in the coming years due to the pandemic and subsequent economic crises.

3. Words matter: avoid offensive languageWhen we talk about migration

The South African experience shows how social perceptions of migration and official discourses and policies are interconnected. Pejorative terms such as "foreign" and the colloquial "makwerekwere" in the South African context have entered the public perception and continue to fuel xenophobic sentiment. The terms influence the perception of migration, the policies that regulate migration and ultimately the experiences of the migrants themselves.

Policymakers in Europe should also refrain from using pejorative terms and images that present an alarming picture of migration. These include references to floods, waves or mass migrations to talk about newcomers from the African continent. More neutral terms are "mobile people", "people on the move" or "arrived".

4. Support regional and continental integrationin Africa

Just as European integration has developed over decades and is still sometimes controversial, regional integration in Africa is not a matter of course. Under SADC, South Africa tends to favor small-scale migration deals and bilateral migration deals, which limits SADC's efforts to regulate migration at the regional level. However, while restrictive and burdensome for migrants, these arrangements have ensured a degree of free movement and movement of labor that would not otherwise have been ensured.

European lawmakers have wisely invested in strengthening the capacity of regional economic communities to promote free movement across the continent, especially in regions closer to home, such as West Africa. However, they should not underestimate the importance of other regional migration centers on the continent. If leading economies such as South Africa are more reluctant to move away from protectionist policies, even slow progress on their part in terms of regional mobility would be a strong signal and could spur positive change elsewhere in Africa, perhaps more so than funded projects . Europe.

Therefore, European politicians must continue to support regional integration efforts, but must adapt their approach. The European integration project can do little to assuage South African politicians' concerns about economic and security issues. Europeans cannot ignore these concerns, which are widespread across the continent, but must actively address them. In particular, they should help to harmonize entry requirements, exchange best practices on border management and return, and set up circular labor migration schemes that can help prevent irregular migration, for example through the South African Migration Dialogue (MIDSA), SADC and SADC. EU dialogue. Europeans could also consider providing additional support for data collection capacity to raise policymakers' awareness of migration and promote evidence-based policy. Investing in South Africa's regional free movement is essential to deliver on the promise of an unlimited continent, in line with Europe's Continental African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Free Movement Protocol. This ambitious goal also fits perfectly with the EU's interest in circular migration in Africa and simply cannot be achieved without regional migration actors such as South Africa.

Therefore, EU policymakers must look beyond the obvious migrant partners it targets in North and West Africa. They should initiate structured migration talks with countries that may be more geographically distant, but whose power as migration magnets extends as far as they can shape mobility on the African continent and beyond. South Africa may not be Europe's closest African neighbor, but it can and should become the continent's main migration partner.

About projections

This document is published as part of the project 'From here to the EU: How to talk about migration in Africa? Awareness campaign for Europeans.Decision makers.” The one-year project is run by the Migration Program of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and funded by Stiftung Mercator.


This project aims to inform German and European policy makers about migration policy and debates in selected African countries so that they can inform their current and future communication with representatives of this continent. The results are to be used at the 6th EU-African Union Summit.

The study provides information on migration policies and their design in five main countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants in Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tunisia and South Africa. The project draws lessons from these national contexts and produces policy recommendations for German and European politicians, policy experts and practitioners to foster a more constructive debate on future African-European cooperation on migration.


  • Two closed expert conferences at Chatham HouseA standard that brought together politicians and experts from Brusselsand Berlin with experts from African countries in autumn 2020
  • Four country case studies written by experts from African countrieson migration policies and practices in Egypt, Ghana, and TunisiaSouth Africa
  • Summary analysis, written by DGAP experts, drawing key lessons from national case studies and discussions at Chatham House.
  • An online event to showcase ilink it with other initiatives in the growing field of migration cooperation between Europe and Africa

Completed by authors

Ottilia Anna Maunganidzejoined the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in 2009 and is currently the head of special projects in the Office of the Executive Director, exploring new areas of work for the ISS and communicating institutional strategy. His areas of interest include international criminal law, international human rights law, and migration trends and policies. His work covers the entire African continent and focuses on promoting people's safety. A lawyer, strategist and analyst, before joining the ISS, Ottilia worked as a legal counsel at the Rhodes University Law Clinic in Makhanda and as a human rights education specialist at Amnesty International in South Africa. She completed an LLM in Fundamental Rights Disputes and International Human Rights Law from the University of South Africa. He also holds a Graduate Diploma from the Institute of International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria, as well as a Graduate Diploma in International Studies and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from Rhodes University.

Victoria RietigHead of the Migration Program of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). Before taking up her current role, she was an independent expert on migration, asylum and refugees, advising government agencies and foundations, including the German Development Agency GIZ, the US Department of State, the Office of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Commonwealth, and the Center for Human Trafficking and Smuggling. from the United States Department of Homeland Security. Previously, she worked in think tanks in Washington, including as a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a member of the Atlantic Council, and a senior migration fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS). ). at Johns Hopkins University. She also served as an advisor to the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in New York. Rietig earned a Master's degree in public policy from Harvard University with a focus on human trafficking and forced migration, followed by a master's degree from Freie Universität Berlin with a focus on migration and integration.

Ali Fajryis an external consultant supporting the DGAP migration program. He coordinates the project “From here to the EU: How to talk about migration in Africa? Awareness campaign for European decision makers. Fakhry previously worked for the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in migration policy dialogues with national and local governments in the Mediterranean region. She also conducted research and was a consultant to the EuroMeSCo network of the European Mediterranean Institute (IEMed), UN-Habitat and UNICEF Senegal. Previously, he supported research on forced migration at the French Institute of the Middle East (Ifpo-CNRS) in Beirut and Amman. Fakhry has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Lund University and a BA in Sciences Po Bordeaux.


What is the immigration policy in South Africa? ›

The South African immigration policy is embodied in the Immigration Act (No 13 of 2002) which prescribes certain requirements which are to be met by an applicant who wishes to immigrate permanently to South Africa. The requirements are: The applicant must be of good character. He / she must be a desirable inhabitant.

What is the main reason for migration from Africa? ›

While often unrecognized, most African migration occurs within the continent as migrants seek employment opportunities in neighboring regional economic hubs. In fact, 80 percent of African migrants do not have an interest in leaving the continent.

How has migration impacted South Africa? ›

The effects of migration in South Africa include increased stress on housing, political and social tension, increased costs, overcrowding, transmission of disease, and marginalization of migrants into low status and low paid jobs.

What is the importance of migration in South Africa? ›

In part due to the high employment rate of the immigrant population itself, immigrants also raise the income per capita in South Africa. In addition, immigrants have a positive impact on the government's fiscal balance, mostly because they tend to pay more in taxes.

What is the goal of South African foreign policy? ›

South Africa's foreign policy focuses on building unity, inclusive economic development and shared prosperity for the African continent and its people.

What is the migration rate in South Africa? ›

The net migration rate for South Africa in 2022 was 1.979 per 1000 population, a 6.56% decline from 2021. The net migration rate for South Africa in 2021 was 2.118 per 1000 population, a 6.2% decline from 2020. The net migration rate for South Africa in 2020 was 2.258 per 1000 population, a 5.8% decline from 2019.

What are the issues with migration in Africa? ›

The issues include human rights, economic opportunity, labour shortages and unemployment, the brain drain, multiculturalism and integration, and flows of refugees and asylum seekers. Policy makers also must grapple with issues of law enforcement.

What are the benefits of migration in Africa? ›

Migrant workers across all skill ranges fill labour market gaps, promote trade and investment and bring innovation, skills and knowledge to both host and origin countries.

What are the main types of migration in Africa? ›

Migration in Africa has been of three types: intra-and inter-country (internal) movements of people within the continent; movement from outside into the continent; and movement from the continent outward.

Is South Africa a good country to migrate? ›

The tropical weather, low cost of living, no language barrier, and most importantly, the friendliness one can find in this country are too good to be ignored.

Is South Africa a good place to migrate to? ›

There are many great reasons to live there. With the culture and landscapes of Cape Town, the optimistic buzz of Johannesburg, and the cosmopolitan vibe of Durban; there are many great places to live. Reading the news headlines you might think that everyone is leaving South Africa, but that is certainly not the case.

Where do South Africans migrate to most? ›

The South African diaspora consists of South African emigrants and their descendants living outside South Africa. The largest concentrations of South African emigrants are to be found in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

What are main reasons for migration? ›

Some people move in search of work or economic opportunities, to join family, or to study. Others move to escape conflict, persecution, terrorism, or human rights violations. Still others move in response to the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters, or other environmental factors.

When did migration start in South Africa? ›

The countries of Southern Africa have been sending and receiving migrants since the mid- nineteenth century when labour migrants came to work on the Kimberley diamond mines, including from modern-day Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

What are the 5 main goals of foreign policy? ›

Foreign Policy Goals
  • Preserving the national security of the United States.
  • Promoting world peace and a secure global environment.
  • Maintaining a balance of power among nations.
  • Working with allies to solve international problems.
  • Promoting democratic values and human rights.

What are the three main goals of foreign policy? ›

Security, prosperity, and the creation of a better world are the three most prominent goals of American foreign policy.

What are the main points of foreign policy? ›

Maintaining independence and state sovereignty. Maintaining world peace. Friendly relations. Enhanced unity and cooperation between developing countries.

What is the biggest migration in Africa? ›

The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest animal migration in the world. Every year, more than 2 million animals (wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle) migrate in a clockwise direction across the ecosystems of the Serengeti (Tanzania) and the Masai Mara (Kenya).

What is the current migration in Africa? ›

The number of African migrants living outside their country of origin has almost doubled since 2010, reaching almost 41 million(4). In 2020, around 21 mil- lion of these Africans were living in another African country, while 19.5 million Africans were living out- side Africa(5).

How many people return to South Africa after immigrating? ›

How many expats have returned home over the last few years? 359,000 South Africans have returned in the past five years.

What are 3 negative effects of migration? ›

Negatives impacts:
  • Pressure on public services such as schools, housing and healthcare;
  • Overcrowding;
  • Language and cultural barriers can exist;
  • Increased level of pollution;
  • Increased pressure on natural resources;
  • Racial tensions and discrimination;
  • Gender imbalance – usually more men migrate.
Jan 12, 2022

What are the benefits and problems of migration? ›

The advantages and disadvantages of migration include various factors. The advantages include a more flexible labor market, and a larger pool of skills, whereas the disadvantages include crowding, congestion, and increased demand for public services due to immigration.

What are four positive effects of migration? ›

Immigrants boost output and employment of the host country, create new opportunities for native workers, provide skills needed for economic growth, generate new ideas, stimulate international trade, and contribute positively to long-term fiscal balances.

What are the effects of migration? ›

With international migration, origin countries often lose large proportions of the highly skilled workforce. Developing countries, such as India, suffer from the loss of this highly trained workforce, due to migration. This is called Human Capital Flight or Brain drain, which negatively impacts economic growth.

What are three general causes of migration in Africa? ›

Unlike the case of 'voluntary' migration, which derives mainly from economic factors, the reasons for mass migration, within and across national borders in Africa, are non-economic being related to political and religious factors, and sometimes, natural disasters.

What are the migration routes around South Africa? ›

Mixed migration flows from the East Africa region typically follow three main migratory routes: the 'Northern Route' towards North Africa and often onwards to Europe; the 'Southern Route' towards South Africa; and the 'Eastern Route' towards Yemen and other parts of the Gulf.

What is the migration policy framework for Africa? ›

The framework advocates for the integration of migrants into the labour market and the education and training sector, as well as the provision of social protection and social security benefits for labour migrants while working abroad, as well as upon their return.

Can US citizens move to South Africa? ›

Yes, you need to obtain a South Africa visa to move to South Africa. Anyone wishing to move to South Africa for over three months (90 days) must apply for a visa. South Africa offers different visas depending on the purpose of your travel. However, for long-term stays in the country, you must apply for long-term visas.

How long can a US citizen live in South Africa? ›

Under the current visa-exemption scheme, American citizens can stay in South Africa for 90 days without a visa. If an American citizen wishes to stay longer than 90 days, for tourism or business purposes, or plans to reside long-term in South Africa, they will require a long-stay permit.

Is it safe for Americans to move to South Africa? ›

Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest. Country Summary: Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.

What is the White Paper policy in South Africa? ›

As the primary policy document, the White Paper serves as the foundation for social welfare in the post-1994 era. The purpose of this White Paper is to establish a policy framework to guide the introduction and implementation of new policies and legislation aimed at transforming the South African public service.

Are immigrants allowed to work in South Africa? ›

Section 38 of the Immigration Act provides that no person shall employ: an illegal foreigner; a foreigner whose status does not authorise him or her to be employed by such person; or. a foreigner on terms, conditions or in a capacity different from those contemplated in such foreigner's status.

How long does the immigration process take for South Africa? ›

Four to 12 weeks, depending on where you submit

However, if you are applying for either of the short-term visas below at your nearest South African mission, processing times are approximately 10 to 15 working days: Visitors Visa (To visit family/friends or for tourism purposes)

Can US permanent residents travel to South Africa? ›

Do I Need A Visa If I'm A US Green Card Holder? It depends on your country of nationality. If your country of nationality is part of the visa-exempt countries, you don't need a visa. If your country of nationality is not part of the visa-exempt countries, you need to apply for a South African Visa.

What is the South African policy to separate whites and non whites? ›

The Apartheid (1948 to 1994) in South Africa was the racial segregation under the all-white government of South Africa which dictated that non-white South Africans (a majority of the population) were required to live in separate areas from whites and use separate public facilities, and contact between the two groups ...

What is fair use policy South Africa? ›

The fair use / dealing copyright section allows a user to copy, for their own study or research or private use, as much of the work as they need to meet their reasonable needs, without seeking permission from the copyright owner or paying compensation.

What policies were changed by white in South Africa? ›

Discriminatory laws were repealed. Ban on political parties and restrictions on media was lifted. After 28 years of imprisonment Nelson Mandela came released from Jail.

Can you work in South Africa as a US citizen? ›

Visa requirements: In order to work in South Africa, you are required to obtain a work visa. Typically, you will need a job offer in order to secure your visa . There are four work visas to know: general work visa, critical skill visa, intra-company transfer (ICT) visa, and business visa.

Can an American work in South Africa? ›

General Work Visa

The employer must prove that they advertised the position you want to fill and that they could not find a South African citizen or permanent resident for the position. You must have a formal job offer from a South African employer to apply for a General Work Visa.

What is the new law in South Africa about foreigners? ›

Under the Immigration Act, employers are prohibited from employing illegal foreign nationals. The new zero-tolerance approach by the government means that employers who are found to have contravened the Immigration Act will be shown 'no mercy'.

Do US citizens need a visa for South Africa? ›

U.S. citizens (U.S. passport holders) visiting the Republic of South Africa for ninety (90) days or less for tourism / business purposes do not need visas.

How long can foreigners stay in South Africa? ›

A long stay Visitor Visa allows a foreign national to remain in South Africa for a period exceeding 3 months, but not exceeding 3 years. There are two kinds of Visitors Visas: The short term Visitor Visa which is valid up to 90 days.

How many years does it take to get permanent residency in South Africa? ›

You and your spouse qualify for a direct permanent residence permit if you have lived in South Africa on the basis of your work permit for a minimum period of five years. Dependents of South African citizens or permanent residence permit holders can also apply.

Can I retire to South Africa from USA? ›

US citizens who wish to retire in South Africa will need to apply for a retired person's visa. This temporary residence visa is issued for up to four years and can be renewed indefinitely.

How long can you live in South Africa without a visa? ›

Visa requirements

You do not need a visa to visit South Africa for tourism or business for up to 90 days. Check the expiry date of your visa or entry stamp and make sure you do not overstay. For more information on visas, contact the South African High Commission.


1. Keep them out: costs of South Africa’s migration policy
2. South Africa Migration Policy (2 of 3 in series)
(Melissa Siegel)
3. South Africa Current Migration Situation (3 of 3 in series)
(Melissa Siegel)
4. Illegal migration challenges in South Africa before the ConCourt
(SABC News)
5. South Africa’s new migration policies
(CGTN Africa)
6. Proposed Migration Policy aims at overhauling and tightening legislation governing migration
(SABC News)


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