MIGRATION has become a major issue in Southern Africa as citizens continue to relocate to work and do business in countries that provide better economic opportunities.
However, this movement of people has drawn mixed reactions from across the social divide.
While business has welcomed the influx of the oft skilled immigrants, the situation has not been the same at community level where residents view them as a source of their economic and social problems.
Among a host of their alleged crimes, immigrants are accused of depriving residents of jobs and other opportunities that should be the locals’ entitlement.
The resultant tension from these accusations has often degenerated into violence, leading to loss of lives and the destruction of property.
Yet immigration was not a problem 50 years ago as the majority of people were content to remain in their own countries. But a combination of poor economic policies and intolerance of divergent political views by some governments has been forcing many to leave their homelands and seek a better life in foreign lands.
Analysts interviewed this week blamed bad governance for the crisis that has seen some immigrants staying illegally in some countries, creating conducive conditions for human trafficking and modern-day slavery as some businesses take advantage of their plight and pay them paltry wages.
One of the analysts explained that while there was need to address challenges facing migrants in host countries through interventions such as special permits, as well as reviewing and amending laws and policies on migration, it was also important to understand that most people are forced to leave their countries by unchanging economic situations triggered by complex and equally unchanging political circumstances.
Such challenges require a regional approach to help address the underlying causes which have triggered complex migration trends that are not always easy to manage or regulate, the analyst added. This, he further said, could help ensure that some countries do not end up with a refugee crisis and social upheaval pitting the migrants against locals.
From 28 November to 1 December, the Council of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) held its 108th Session in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss trends in the development of migration processes and celebrate the anniversary of IOM joining the United Nations. The Session also discussed the state of the consultation process on the elaboration of the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration as well as IOM’s programme for 2018.
The session was attended by representatives of member states, including Lesotho, international organisations including the African Union, and observers.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, the Commissioner for Refugees and focal person on migration and development issues based at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mohlolo Lerotholi, said issues of migration in Southern Africa have become more important now than ever before.
More than 20 000 migrants enter and transit across the Southern African region every year.
“Migration issues have become more important because of both the negative and positive impacts they pose if not properly managed. Some countries are losing skills at very high rates while poorly regulated migration is also posing various social challenges in some countries of destination. However, there can be more benefits in both countries of origin and destination if countries can agree to work together to ensure a win-win situation,” Mr Lerotholi said.
Most countries losing skills, he said giving an example of Lesotho, invest a lot in educating young people, with some training abroad.
“Some of these students do not return to Lesotho after completing their studies. While the Government of Lesotho cannot deprive them the right to stay in countries of their choice, there should be an agreement between Lesotho and those countries to ensure that the country of origin does not continue losing out by training for other countries,” he noted.
He further said the issue of brain-drain hits hard on smaller countries, forcing them to engage foreign professionals.
“With such a scenario where one country loses its own people and also takes from another country, this is a reflection that all countries are affected in one way or the other, hence the need to acknowledge sharing of skills and working together to support economic regional growth.”
Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, also attended the Geneva IOM Session and said it was important to acknowledge contributions by migrant workers in developing economies of the host countries.
“I would like to emphasise the need to put the human face at the centre of all our migration programmes nationally, and for regional and global cooperation initiatives. Discussions are not about things or goods moving from one country to the other, but we are talking about human beings. As what an Ubuntu philosophy we were taught growing up says, ‘I am because you are’, so we need to live together without allowing our boundaries to discriminate others because we are one people,” Mr Mofomobe said.
He explained the fact that Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa made issues of migration important as they touched every Mosotho in some way.
“It’s a give-and-take situation because we are neighbours. In our case, for example, we have many Basotho working in the South African mines and other sectors. The country is benefitting a lot through remittances, which particularly support the growth of the economy if the remittances can go through formal channels,” Mr Mofomobe said.
He explained the IOM Session was particularly important as it marked the first anniversary of the organization as a member of the United Nations. “As Lesotho, we are confident the IOM, as the UN Migration Agency, will most effectively and efficiently, coordinate with other agencies in addressing migration issues. This is, therefore, a big achievement on the part of the international community, especially here in Southern Africa as we would like to improve the management of more complex migratory flows,” he noted.
He also said Lesotho embraces the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants which seeks to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the light of Sustainable Development Goal 10 (SDG 10).
SDG 10 supports the facilitation of orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people through the implementation of well-managed migration policies.
According to Mr Mofomobe, Lesotho will review and amend its Immigration Act of 1971 and implement a new Citizen and Migration Policy in line with the provisions of the Global Compact for Migration, which is consistent with SDG 10.
Among other issues the Global Compact for Migration is intended to address all aspects of international migration, including humanitarian, developmental, and human rights; make an important contribution to global governance and enhance coordination on international migration; present a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility; and set out a range of actionable commitments, means of implementation and a framework for follow-up and review among member-states regarding international migration in all its dimensions.
“Lesotho, with the assistance of the IOM, has embarked on extensive consultations with all stakeholders on the Global Compact for Migration, with a view of working on an implementation plan,” said Mr Mofomobe.
The deputy minister also said the government was currently developing a new National Strategic Development Plan and seeks to fully integrate migration issues in line with the SDGs and Africa Agenda 2063, “the Africa we want”.