Regional Integration and Regional Migration Trends: Home Affairs, IOM & African Centre for Migration & Society briefing

Home Affairs

05 May 2015
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Three entities briefed the Committee on regional integration and regional migration trends. The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) placed a particular focus on demographics, push factors, facilitating factors, inhibiting factors, and exacerbating factors. The brief was centred on the countries of DRC, Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Included in the push factors were high income inequality, high poverty rate, high population growth rate, political and social instability, high refugee rate, and poor healthcare and education system. Factors that facilitated migration included lax border control, long porous borders, internal conflicts and dysfunctional government. Factors that exacerbated regional migration included trafficking in persons, smuggling drugs, arms and money laundering. Poverty was identified as a major push factor. The IOM recommended a more liberal approach towards management of both regional and national migration. The 2013 recommendations of Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA), a consultative process for SADC, had spoken to the need for development of a national and regional migration profiles, policies and frameworks, strengthening of regional coordination and implementation of the Regional Labour Migration Action Plan, capacity building training programmes for government and private organisations, and enhancing participation and common tools. Regional coordination was needed for decisions on social security, recognition of qualifications, non-discrimination and equality treatment, proper working conditions for migrants workers at all skill levels, and national coordination was needed for formulation of comprehensive national labour migration policies, enhanced protection of migrant workers and targeted sectoral interventions.

The African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) spoke to migration, mobility, and social integration, with a particular focus on Southern African trends and their implications. It noted that migration was fundamentally about empowerment. It improved individual, household, and collective status, social, economic and physical security. However, data on migration dynamics lacked quality,  due to legal and bureaucratic apparatus, proprietary data collection, and limited scholarly research. According to research projects, international migration remained relatively constant, as the migrant proportion of total population was 3.4% in 1990 and 3.7% in 2010. Refugees counted for 2.1% in 2010 and 7.6% in 1995, of international migrants. Domestic migration and urbanisation was challenged by critical livelihood options and integration. Close to 3% of the population was moving across provincial boundaries in the last five years. The percentage of women migrating was increasing. However, domestic migration must also be taken into account. The SADC Procotol of Facilitation of Movement of Persons had not been implemented because it had not been ratified by the necessary two-thirds of member states, with some expressing the fear that labour migration was seen as a threat to local opportunities, which meant that much of the current labour migration was unmanaged. The ACMS pointed out that restrictive policies were both expensive and ineffective, and instead policies were needed based on regional patterns and economic and social need. Deportation also was not working. The South African policy on regional integration was contradictory, with competing messages carried by displacements, arrests, detentions, and deportations, and the consequence was that a large number of people chose to be "invisible", which had impacts on health and economy. 

 

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA)  provided information on regional migration trends to South Africa, and South Africa’s position on the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movements of Persons (PFMP). It provided the latest 2014 trends of migration to South Africa and regional integration efforts as they related to asylum-seekers and refuges, and also provided information on the Zimbabwe Special Dispensation project, which was created to relieve the pressure on the asylum determination regime and to document Zimbabwean nationals residing in South Africa under the Immigration Act. After 1994, the increased flow of foreign nationals had helped with growth in South Africa, through trade, skills, investment and tourism, but globalisation also brought risks such as trafficking in people, drugs, contraband and species. Migration trends were largely motivated by South Africa’s level of development, as well as wars and conflict elsewhere, and it received migrants from all over the world, but around 90% from SADC, some of whom used South Africa as a transit point. In line with the spirit of the SADC-PFMP, South Africa had instituted 90 days visa waivers for nationals from SADC countries, except for nationals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Angola, which were politically unstable. It had been willing to extend the visa waivers to Angolan citizens but Angola had been unwilling to reciprocate. The mandate of the DHA, under the Refugee Act, was set out, and it was noted that in 2014/15 financial year, the DHA had processed and issued 3   868 identity documents and 9 557 travel documents for refugees. 75   733 asylum cases were adjudicated and finalised but only 12% of all cases adjudicated were approved, with the rest rejected as unfounded or manifestly unfounded. DHA was working on a regional framework to manage asylum seekers and refugees, which would be considered for adoption in June 2015. For the Zimbabwe Special Dispensation, 127   783 (62.1%) of applications had been adjudicated, and most were approved.

Members asked if there was data on qualifications of refugees who left and entered the country several times, why South Africa was implementing the Protocol in a limited way, and if it was encouraging other countries to do likewise. They asked why deportation numbers were increasing, and for an explanation of women's increased numbers. They felt that there was too much focus on land borders and asked about sea and air ports. Some Members suggested that, given that many migrants were more skilled than local South Africans, permanent residence should be emphasised, and efforts were needed to educate citizens to show more care and respect. Members felt that securitisation of borders was necessary, although some favoured a more liberal migration management policy too. Finding a balance between the protection of interest of South Africans and the accommodation of refugees was an issue that could not be deal with by one department but needed concerted effort from several. Research projects and consultations were essential in order to come up with a policy that responded to the situation at hand, distinguished economic migrants from genuine refugees and  recognised the skills of migrants, but also recognised that many of those may come in with criminal intent. 

Meeting report

Regional integration & migration trends briefings
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) [document available on 11 May 2015]

Mr Richard Ots,  Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration, briefed the Committee on regional integration and regional migration trends with a particular focus on demographics, push factors, facilitating factors, inhibiting factors, and exacerbating factors. The brief was centred on the countries of DRC, Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Included in the push factors were high income inequality, high poverty rate, high population growth rate, political and social instability, high refugee rate, and poor healthcare and education systems. Factors that facilitated migration included lax border control, the long and porous border, internal conflict and dysfunctional government. Factors that exacerbated regional migration included trafficking in persons, smuggling drugs, arms and money laundering. Poverty was identified as a major push factor.

Mr Ots noted that there were different characteristics of migration. There were people who were uprooted by natural disasters, conflict and political instability, and who needed international protection. There were migrants who were forced to move by poverty and in search of employment, income or skills and they were regarded as labour migrants. In addition, there was rural to urban, and irregular migration to be also taken into account. Urban migration referred to people who were moving from rural areas to urban areas and thus contributed to expansion of informal urban settlements.  Irregular migration referred to people who were involved in trafficking and smuggling activities.

Mr Ots drew the attention of the Committee to the 2013 recommendations of Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA), a consultative process for SADC, which talked about the need for:

  • Development of a national and regional migration profiles, policies and frameworks
  • Strengthening national and regional coordination on managing migration
  • Implementation of the Regional Labour Migration Action Plan
  • Creation of capacity building training programmes for governments, civil societies, private sector and worker organisations
  • Development of comprehensive tools and policies related to diaspora engagement, including strengthening the infrastructure for remittance transfers; and
  • Enhancing participation of states in the planning and agenda setting of MIDSA. 

He suggested that labour migration interventions should focus on regional coordination, in respect of social security, recognition of qualifications, non-discrimination and equality treatment, proper working conditions for migrants workers at all skill levels. There was a need for national coordination in respect of formulation of comprehensive national labour migration policies, enhanced protection of migrant workers and targeted sectoral interventions.

Mr Ots concluded his brief by noting some of challenges that should be addressed at regional level. He noted that major donors in the region were slowly reducing funding, in part due to the increasing number of middle-income countries in the region. However, significant humanitarian and protection needs remained related to migration management.

African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS)
Ms Ingrid Palmary, Associate Professor, Wits University ACMS, briefed the Committee on migration, mobility, and social integration, with a particular focus on Southern African trends and their implications. She noted that migration was fundamentally about empowerment. It improved individual, household, and collective status, social, economic and physical security. However, the quality of data on migration dynamics was lacking, due to legal and bureaucratic apparatus, proprietary data collection, and limited scholarly research.

According to research projects, international migration relatively remained constant, as the proportion of migrants in relation to total population was 3.4% in 1990 and 3.7% in 2010. Refugees counted for 2.1% in 2010 and 7.6% in 1995, of international migrants. Domestic migration and urbanisation was challenged by critical livelihood options and integration. Close to 3% of the population was moving across provincial boundaries in the last five years. The percentage of women migrating was increasing.

In terms of Southern Africa migration, putting it into a continental perspective, the major receiving countries of migrants were South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. The top eight African countries with higher number of migrant populations living in urban areas included Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Angola was ranked the first country in Africa whilst South Africa was ranked sixth.

In South Africa, a high number of people born in one province ended up by living in another province. 44% of Gauteng’s population was born in different provinces, and 4.4% of the South African population were born outside of South Africa. These figures illustrated that that migration was largely domestic. This fact, however, had been ignored in policy, planning and public concerns. Both domestic and international migration was driven by economics and opportunities rather than conflict. 

Prof Palmary elaborated on the role of SADC in the migration trends. She stated that the SADC had expressed a purpose of enhancing economic and social integration among Member States. The SADC committed itself to facilitating free movement of capital goods and people. However, the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movements of Persons (PFMP) had not been ratified by the required two-thirds of Member States and was not being implemented. As a result, most migration was managed through bilateral agreements. It would seem that the reluctance to regionalise was driven by a fear of labour migration as a threat to local opportunities. The consequence of all this was that much of the current labour migration was irregular and unmanaged in the SADC region. Migration took place in the context of global securitisation of migration. It was worth noting that it seemed impossible to stop migration. Even United States of America had failed to do this. Restrictive policies were extremely expensive and ineffective. There was a need for policies based on regional patterns and economic and social need. Example of liberalised migration policy suggested that labour migration was not the threat it was assumed to be.

Prof Palmary expressed her concern about deportation or removal of undocumented migrants. According to statistics, deportation was not working. In 1994, the total numbers of people deported was 90    692, and it increased to 209    988 in 2005. Most nationals who were deported were from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

On the issue of regional integration, she stated that South African social cohesion policies had not adequately dealt with anti-foreigner sentiment and overtly promoted national identity. Their connection to xenophobic violence were loose and clear. On the other hand, social integration was not a problem faced only by foreigners but a problem faced by all in South African cities. Transience was identified as part of South African cities and would continue. 

The South African policy on regional integration was beyond knee jerk or simple exclusion. It carried with it contradictory and competing messages such as displacements, arrests, detentions, and deportations. This indicated that an evidenced based and pragmatic policy was lacking. The consequences of this was that there was a large number of the people who were "invisible" and this had impacts on health and economy.

Prof Palmary concluded that the DHA should improve data collection and technocratic capacity. There was a need for migration responses that spoke to South African regional dynamics, and for managing popular sentiment and its impact on policy. If not, simple restrictive policies had far reaching negative consequences for economic, health and social protection.

Discussion

The Chairperson remarked that the briefings clearly indicated that migration would be an ever-present factor, and nothing could be done to stop it. The question was, however, whether South Africa could leave the borders open to everyone and thus have a more liberal policy that allowed economic migrants to come, or whether it should adopt more restrictive measures that could allow access to foreign nationals with special skills. He sought clarity on whether the claim that foreign nationals were taking jobs of citizens was founded or unfounded.

Mr D Gumede (ANC) disagreed with arguments holding that borders should be left open; and favoured an approach where a border security-oriented policy would be devised. Migration should be well managed. Most countries were moving towards more restrictive measures. If borders were not well managed, South Africa would not be trusted by other countries because they might think that it had become a place where criminals and terrorists could seek sanctuary. It should be borne in mind that criminals and terrorists could well be among the migrants.

He agreed that restrictive measures, which included erection of walls or electric fences at the borders in combination with positioning the army at the border, could cost taxpayers a lot of money. However, he felt that there was a need to play on the safe side. He sought clarity on how the DHA would be able to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants, and between criminals and peaceable migrants.

Ms O Maxon (EFF) expressed her concerns about the presentations because she felt that they were lacking in that they underscored the problems, but did not suggest solutions. She was of the view that the issue of migration management or control needed to be widely debated. The IOM presentation did not focus on the impact of migration on South Africa but presented regional, continental and global migration trends. She sought clarity on why South Africa was focussing on securitising borders that were created by colonial masters, instead of finding ways how fellow African brothers and sisters could be treated in a more humane manner. Members were all aware of the major problem that was challenging Africa - namely, poverty. Members knew the social status of the Continent. She asserted that in general Africans were so poor because the rulers were adopting and enforcing policies which did not respond to the people’s needs. The issue of migration was not an easy question to solve, and Members needed to hold wider consultation, research and public participation.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) agreed with Ms Maxon on the issue of research and wide consultation. Holistic and compressive research was needed that could come up with an inclusive solution. She appreciated the fact that migration could not be managed by a single country. A collaboration or cooperation with neighbouring countries was imperative. She suggested that people were unfairly challenging South Africa on its argument that foreign nationals were economic migrants. It had been obvious in the presentations that the major push factor was poverty and the major pull factor was South Africa’s economic development. On the issue of the Border Management Agency, she said that the army would not succeed in preventing migrants from coming in the country. However, she suggested that the country should be tough on dealing with economic migrants and thus ensure that the number of economic migrants entering the country was reduced.

Ms Raphuti sought clarity on what Nigerians were doing in the country, and on why they had "started pulling stunts" shortly after xenophobic outbreak, including calling their ambassador.

The Chairperson agreed that both immigration and refugee regimes should be revisited and be reframed in a way that could respond to the current situation. The public and concerned stakeholders would be consulted. He agreed that borders were created by colonialists, but Members also could not ignore the fact that it would be a risk to leave borders open to everyone. It was not only that criminals and terrorists who could come in the country easily, but also that some countries could be depleted. Presenters had briefed the Committee that migrants were staying in the country temporarily and then returned. However, the truth was that DHA reported that it was receiving many applications for permanent residence permits. What was apparent was that a liberal policy was needed for management of immigration.

Mr Mavuso noted the movement of ten nationalities in 2014, in respect of arrivals and departure. The highest number of movement of nationalities recorded was from Zimbabwe, followed by Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, United Kingdom, United States of America, Germany, Namibia, and Zambia. 90.47% per cent of countries' movement in the top ten related to SADC countries.

Mr Mavuso stated that South Africa had signed and ratified the SADC-PFMP. In addition to South Africa, only Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland had ratified the SADC PFMP. In line with the spirit of the SADC-PFMP, South Africa had instituted 90 days visa waivers for nationals from SADC countries, except for nationals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Angola, given that these three countries were not stable politically. South Africa had been willing to extend the visa waivers to Angolan citizens but Angola had been unwilling to reciprocate.

Mr Mavuso explained the mandate of the DHA in relation with asylum-seeker management. He stated that that mandate derived from the Refugees Act 130 of 1998. The mandate included obligations on DHA :

  • To provide for reception into South Africa of asylum-seekers
  • To implement effective and efficient asylum-seeker and refugee management strategies and systems
  • To regulate applications for and recognition of refugee status
  • To provide for rights and obligations flowing from such status, which included enabling documentation
  • To provide support services to Refugees Appeals Board and the Standing Committee for Refugees as provided for in the Refugees Act 130 of 1998.
  • To engage with partners on issues affecting local integration of refugees (i.e. state departments, Non-governmental organisation, lawyers, tertiary institution).
  • To participate during national, regional and international platforms deliberating on issues of refugees (interdepartmental, SADC, Africa Union, UNHCR and other global forums).
  • To implement Cabinet-declared cessation processes, based on advice from the UNHCR, such as the recent Angolan Cessation process.
  • To provide up to date country of origin information to support the adjudication of asylum applications at first instance, review and appeal stages.

In terms of section 27 of the Refugees Act 10 of 1998, recognised refugees were entitled to  an identity document and travel document on application. During the 2014/15 financial year, the DHA was able to process and issue 3    868 identity documents and approximately 9 557 travel documents.

He detailed the application process. 71   914 new arrivals were registered between January and December 2014. The figures of new arrivals indicated a slight increase in the number of registered asylum-seekers – about 1   900 plus – as opposed to the 70   010 new arrivals registered in 2013. Of the new arrivals registered in 2014, 68% were male applicants whilst 32% were female applicants. Zimbabwe was identified as the top refugee sending country.

In regard to refugee status determination in 2014, a total of 75 733 asylum cases were adjudicated and finalised at the first instance refugee status determination stage. The number of adjudicated cases during the year 2014 included cases registered in 2013 and 2014. Only 12% (9   230) of all adjudicated cases were approved. Approval was granted to nationals from the following countries: Ethiopia (3 041), Somalia (2   903), DRC (2 321), Congo (599), Eritrea (167), Uganda (62), Burundi (41), and Rwanda (24). The majority (88%) of asylum applications adjudicated were rejected either as unfounded (39%) or as manifestly unfounded (49%). Based on these figures, the DHA believed that the majority of asylum claims were indeed abusing the asylum system.

Mr Mavuso noted that the DHA was working towards a regional framework on the management of asylum seekers and refugees. At the time of briefing the Committee, there were a number of consultations that either took place or were anticipated to take place. A Legal Experts Task Team, comprised by Troika members was established, tasked with analysing the refugee frameworks of member states and making recommendations for the development of the regional framework.  In this respect, South Africa was requested to populate the Zero Draft Framework and share it with Member States. The Zero Draft Framework had been populated. It would be considered for adoption in June 2015.

The DHA engaged stakeholders on the matter of local integration, including the City of Tshwane, United Nations for High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and all departments.

With regard to Zimbabwean dispensation, Mr Mavuso stated that the DHA had recognised the need to facilitate the movement of people from Zimbabwe to South Africa, given the economic conditions in Zimbabwe. A special dispensation was approved and extended to qualifying Zimbabwean nationals to apply for this dispensation by 31 December 2014. Zimbabweans who qualified would receive special dispensation visas that would be valid until 31 December 2017. This was part of an on-going effort by the government to ensure that Zimbabwean nationals were able to work and study in South Africa lawfully. A total of 208   967 applications were lodged by Zimbabweans by 31 December 2014. As of 28 April 2015, a total of 127   783 applications had been adjudicated, thus representing 62.1% of all applicants received and the vast majority of them had been approved. Only 1.6% (representing 3   291) applications were rejected.

Discussion:

Mr Gumede sought clarity on whether the DHA had the data related to qualifications of refugees and asylum-seekers and to those who entered and left the countries several times.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) sought clarity on why South Africa was implementing the SADC Protocol on Free Movement, which had not come into force as it had not been ratified by two-thirds of countries. She asked whether the DHA was encouraging other countries to ratify the Protocol. Looking at figures of the deportees, she commented that there were gaps in the annual deportations and wondered why the figures in the deportation were increasing instead of decreasing?

Ms Kenye felt that there were other contradictions in the information that was presented to Members. It was mentioned that the root causes of migration was poverty. If this was the case, then she asked how the increase in women's numbers was explained. She thought that the increase in women migrants probably pointed more to causes of conflict, violence, and human rights abuses rather than poverty. In a conflict, women and children were most vulnerable and most likely to be victims. She felt it would also be contradictory for South Africa, on the one hand, to encourage Nigerian rebels to bring back the abducted girls and, on the other, close borders to those women and children seeking asylum in the country. 

Mr B Nesi (ANC) sought clarity on why the DHA was focusing on fellow Africans who might come in South Africa, but little or nothing had been said on how the DHA would deal with Asian migrants who came by ship or air and who gained access to South Africa by using ports, and he wanted to know if there were any measures to control the sea and air ports. He also asked how many people came into South Africa with visiting visas but who were later seeking asylum.

Ms Maxon, referring to slide 4, stated that the DHA should bear in mind that globalisation, freedom and democracy and economic growth were pulling factors contributing to increased flow of foreign nationals. Foreign nationals should not be viewed in a negative way. In a positive sense, they were economic assets. They brought with them the skills that South Africa was seeking from other countries. It was true that most of the foreign nationals were more qualified than the majority of South Africans. She thought more should be done in granting permanent residence. The government should not focus on deporting foreign nationals,but it should take into account that foreign nationals were needed in South Africa. It should devise a strategy to teach citizens about the plight of non-citizens so that they could be more caring and respectful of them.

Ms Kenye sought clarity on how many refugees had travel documents. She also asked how many travelled back to their countries, and later came back to stay in South Africa. She disagreed with Ms Maxon that these migrants invariably possessed high qualifications, and pointed out that many of them opened saloons for manicures or similar businesses.

The Chairperson remarked that there were some areas with a high percentage of foreigners, and that these areas were benefitting from municipal development policies, so he suggested that they should be marked and be dealt with. He agreed that there were some criminals among foreign nationals. Little or nothing had been said on the minor migrants, and he pointed out that children of, say, 15 years old, were sometimes travelling from Zambia to South Africa. This example illustrated the fact that there was human trafficking. He expressed his worries about an increase in the people seeking asylum because of the numbers of people who entered South Africa on a visitor’s visa and then converted their visitor's visa into being an asylum-seeker, and asked how many of this type of application had been approved by DHA. The government needed to secure borders and to find ways in which migration could be reduced.

Mr Mavuso responded that an asylum-seeker’s application form was recently amended to include qualifications of the asylum-seeker. The DHA did not have the data on skilled and unskilled refugees and asylum-seekers already in the country.

Mr Mavuso noted that regular movements were captured and data could be provided on that. On the issue of engaging neighbour countries to ratify the SADC Protocol, he responded that South Africa was engaging with them on the matter, but countries which did not sign had good reasons for not ratifying. For example, Botswana made it clear that it was preserving livelihood opportunities for its own citizens.

Mr Mavuso noted that the DHA was not only focusing on African entrants, because the maritime and air ports were not neglected. The DHA was aware that these routes were being used by economic migrants and refugees, but they were not posing as much danger as land border crossings. The DHA remained vigilant.

Mr Mavuso agreed that skills needed to be looked into, to see how best the skills that were already in the country could be used for the benefit of economic growth.

On the question of how many refugees would return to their country using travel documents for refugees, Mr Mavuso responded that travel document for refugees did not allow them to go to their home countries. However, some refugees used them to travel to another neighbouring country, and from there, cross back to their own countries. Instances such as these were not easy to detect.

Speaking to the increase of women in migration, Mr Mavuso replied that the majority of migrants were not women but the number of women who migrated had recently increased.

The Chairperson commented that it was clear that more analysis, research and debate were needed in order to be able to create a policy that talked to the situation that South Africa was facing. More problematic was the fact that South Africa had tried to accommodate everyone but it seemed that its hospitality was being misused. The DHA ought to bear in mind that it was a security department. It ought to play its role in securitising South African interests. He pointed out that all the public sector departments needed to play their role in social cohesion because if they did not, social structures would collapse, and their activities were likely to collapse also.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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