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Migration is a developmental issue - experts
2010-06-01

Pictured from the left, front, are: D. Juma, Mr Williams and Prof. Hussein Solomon (University of Pretoria); back: Prof. Bekker, Prof. Lucius Botes (Dean: Faculty of the Humanities, UFS) and Dr Wa Kabwe-Segatti.
Photo: Stephen Collett


“Migration offers more opportunities for economic growth than constraints. It is an integral part of the processes of globalisation and regional integration.”

This was a view shared by one of the speakers, Dr Monica Juma from the Africa Institute of South Africa, during a panel discussion hosted by the Centre for Africa Studies (CAS) at the University of the Free State (UFS) last week as part of the celebrations of Africa Day on 25 May 2010.

The discussion was premised on the theme, Migration and Africa: From Analysis to Action.

Dr Juma said migrants could be assets for host countries or cities because of their resourcefulness. She said they brought along essential skills that could contribute immensely to the economic development of their host countries or cities.

“Governments are beginning to see migration as a tool for development and working together in developing immigration policies,” concurred another speaker, Mr Vincent Williams from the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA).

He said, if managed properly, migration could yield positive results. He said effective management of migration should start at local and provincial levels.
And for this to happen, he said, the current immigration laws should be amended as he felt they were no longer relevant, because they were based on what countries wanted to achieve in the past.

“Reform national immigration legislation to encourage permanent settlement and improve service delivery mechanisms and bureaucracy to match population movements,” Dr Aurelia Kazadi Wa Kabwe-Segatti, from the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand recommended.

However, Mr Williams pointed out that policy convergence was a difficult thing to achieve as migration was a politically sensitive issue. He said decisions that countries made on migration could have a negative or a positive bearing on their relations with one another.

Dr Juma also raised the issue of unskilled migrants which, she said, could be a burden to governments. This was reflected in the current South African situation where foreigners offered cheap labour and thus rendered South Africans who demanded higher salaries unemployable. This was a contributory factor to the xenophobic attacks of 2008. What was essentially a labour problem then manifested itself as a migration problem.

Prof. Simon Bekker from the University of Stellenbosch said South Africa was still losing a significant number of skilled professionals to Europe and North America due to an assumption that spatial mobility led to social or economic mobility.

He also suggested that the government should not restrict internal migration but should address the problem of migration across the borders into South Africa.

Senior Professor at the CAS, Prof. Kwandiwe Kondlo, said while the discussion covered a broad scope, there were some gaps that still needed to be filled in order for an all-inclusive view to prevail. One such gap, he said, was to also accord indigenous traditional institutions of governance space in such deliberations and not base discussions on this issue only on the Western way of thinking.

Africa Day is the day on which Africa observes the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963, to promote the unity and solidarity of African states and act as a collective voice for the African continent; to secure Africa’s long-term economic and political future; and to rid the continent of all remaining forms of colonialism. The OAU was formally replaced by the African Union in July 2002.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za  
1 June 2010
 

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