SADC discuss migration issues

Gugu Mahlalela

Mbabane – SADC members states this past week meet in Swazi capital, for the 4th Ministerial Meeting of the Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) to discuss issues around mixed migration in the region.

Senior officials from immigration and labour in member countries attend the meeting that was held under the theme ‘Addressing mixed and irregular migration in the SADC Region: Linking protection, immigration, border management and labour migration’ from 2 to 4 September.

Swaziland Prime Minister Dr Sibusiso Dlamini told the gathering that there is a real and urgent need for assistance in migration matters in the SADC region.

He said with a complex mixture of welcoming beneficence and hostile rejection among the population of host countries, and a combination of severe hardship and economic opportunism among migrants, there is a real and urgent need for assistance.

“What we have seen in recent times is mass migration in unprecedented numbers, demanding policies and programmes that are both empathetic and practical, while not imposing damage on either host countries or the migrants themselves”, said the prime minister.

Dlamini pointed out that the Southern Africa region has seen a rise in the recent years in the phenomenon known as ‘mixed migration’ which involves different categories of migrants who cross international borders, motivated and mobilized by hardship and high levels of unemployed, civil insurrection, natural disaster or economic opportunism, hoping for a better life.

“Unfortunately within those numbers will be persons that have been trafficked and sadly some will be women and children driven into positions of modern slavery. They must be rescued and protected,” he said.

He said increased mobility through countries of Southern Africa is raising the need to scrutinise the extent to which existing approaches to immigration, border management and refugee policies are adequate, and able to address such complicated and mixed flows passing through their borders.

While there is currently something of a hiatus in the extensively troubled areas, as the world focuses on the other events and challenges, the problems that arise from human migration will not go away.

“They will simply vary in degree. What we hope and strive for is achieving that elusive balance of extending a humanitarian response and exercising a fair, but pragmatic, means of control.

“Human migration is not a new occurrence. People have been migrating for centuries but not, until recently, as visible to the rest of the world while it is happening,” he said.

MIDSA is a collaborative effort between the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and its partner the Southern African Migration Project.

Dlamini said the MIDSA conference has made an important contribution towards developing a regional approach to migration issues in Southern Africa.

He revealed that in 2013, the discussions through the MIDSA process resulted in the adoption of the SADC Regional Labour Migration Action Plan which was endorsed at the SADC Employment and Labour Sector meeting in 2013.

With a youth segment of 200 million people, Dlamini said it is important that Africa re-thinks its strategy on how best to use the full potential of its youthful population within the context of labour migration.

He hoped the MIDSA meeting worked out an strategy that will operationalize the SADC Labour Migration Policy Framework, “which we are confident, will contribute towards addressing some of the challenges related to labour migration”.

IOM director general Ambassador William Lacy Swing said the region has been historically been characterised by cross border mobility of economic migrants who traveled periodically in the mining sector across the region.

“With the adoption of the SADC Regional Labour Migration Action Plan, countries in Southern Africa have already established the foundation for such approach that would allow a balanced approach to the movements of migrants workers within the region and beyond,” he said.

Southern Africa is also a major destination for migrants coming from other parts of Africa and beyond including some Asian countries, Swing said.

He said the economic situation in some middle income countries of the region such as Botswana, Namibia and South Africa is an important pull factor which attracts migrants into the region.

“Estimates indicate that an average of 20 000 migrants enter and transit across the Southern Africa region on a yearly basis,” he said.

Swing said at a time when migrants are frequently used as scapegoats for various socio-economic and political turmoil and anti-migrants sentiments are heightened in societies, it is important to underline that the mixed migration flows witnessed in different parts of the world including the Southern Africa Region, reflecting the diverse and complex phenomena whereby different groups of migrants move along the same routes.

September 2017
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