Migration regimes and the politics of difference in contemporary Southern Africa.

The issue of migration and in particular the increase in irregular or undocumented migration has become highly politicised in Southern Africa. This has involved a rise in social intolerance towards migrant populations and outright xenophobia in many countries. This brief article examines the dynamics and complexities of migration in current-day Southern Africa and contextualises it in relation to the most salient issues, discourses and practices that characterise migration governance at the international level. The article highlights that predominant approaches to the governance of migration in the region reflect some of the dynamics which have marked migration discourse and praxis in the international sphere, but that they also carry some distinct characteristics. Trends of securitisation and related exclusionary practices of citizenship, which have become more pronounced in the international sphere, are emulated in Southern Africa. State and societal processes and reactions to higher levels of regional migration have created a context in which social polarisation and the entrenchment of difference prevails. This has meant that prime questions about how to ameliorate the socio-economic and political circumstances which evoke migrant flows in the first instance, and on how to deal with the inefficiencies in Southern Africa’s current migration policies, have remained largely unasked by the region’s rulers. Overall, Southern Africa’s migration regime evidences two contradictory thrusts, one which seeks to encourage closer regional and specifically economic integration, and the other which resists the assumed threats posed to national sovereignty by increased migrant flows and which leads to a fractious regional governance system.

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