Understanding Migration Governance: Insights from Alan Hirsch’s BBC Interview


On April 2, 2024, Professor Alan Hirsch, leader of the Migration Governance Reform in Africa Program (MIGRA) at the New South Institute (NSI), engaged in a pivotal discussion on BBC regarding the nuanced realities of migration in South Africa. This conversation comes at a critical time, just before the country’s general elections, where migration has surged to the forefront of national discourse.

During the interview, Hirsch delved into the escalating political sensitivities around migration, underscored by xenophobic violence and political rhetoric, which frame migrants as a substantial challenge amidst South Africa’s socio-economic strains. He highlighted the pressing issues derived from stagnant economic growth and a high unemployment rate, which hovers between 30 and 40%. These conditions ferment a climate where migrants are perceived as direct competitors in a shrinking job market.

Professor Hirsch pointed out that despite the fiery political debates, the actual numbers of migrants, both legal and illegal, are relatively modest by global standards. He critiqued the politicization of migration, noting that some parties have exaggerated figures to inflame public opinion and sway electoral outcomes. His commentary also touched on the SADC Charter, discussing its implications for regional movement and the complex dynamics it introduces into national policy discussions.

The insights from Hirsch, grounded in his extensive research through NSI’s MIGRA program, are particularly salient as they provide a scholarly perspective on the intersections of migration policy and electoral politics. His work, including the comprehensive “South Africa Country Study: Migration Trends, Policy, Implementation, and Outcomes,” offers an invaluable framework for understanding the multifaceted nature of migration in Africa’s most industrialized nation.

As South Africa approaches its elections, the discourse around migration governance will undoubtedly intensify. Hirsch’s contributions illuminate the critical need for informed, evidence-based discussions that can guide public opinion and policy-making in a more constructive direction. This understanding is essential for addressing the complexities of migration and ensuring that policies do not merely react to crises but foster long-term societal and economic stability.

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