Alan Hirsch on SABC News: A Critical Look at South Africa’s Government Migration White Paper


On November 16, Alan Hirsch, the Director of the Migration Governance Reform Program at the New South Institute (NSI), featured in an interview on SABC News. The discussion focused on the recently unveiled White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration, and Refugee Protection by the South African government. This policy document, released by Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, the Minister of Home Affairs, on November 12, 2023, follows the Cabinet’s approval for public commentary. The draft policy aims to provide a comprehensive framework for the granting of residency and citizenship to foreign nationals, alongside the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, aligning with South Africa’s national security interests and its commitments under international migration agreements.

The White Paper proposes significant amendments in citizenship, immigration, and refugee law, encompassing tighter regulations and the consolidation of three existing laws into one. It seeks to overhaul systems including refugee law and border control. Professor Hirsch highlighted that, disappointingly, the White Paper does not incorporate many recommendations from an extensive investigation into the Department of Home Affairs conducted by Dr. C Cassius Lubisi, which pointed out issues like departmental inefficiency.

A key aspect of the paper is the tightening of asylum application processes, mandating applications at ports of entry and establishing specific courts for appeals. This indicates an effort to address what is perceived as the misuse of the asylum system for economic migration. Professor Hirsch stressed the importance of understanding the White Paper within South Africa’s political context, especially considering the high unemployment rate and the prevalent belief that the asylum system is being exploited for economic migration.

Hirsch acknowledged the government’s initiatives to ease travel to certain countries for South Africans and the significance of tourism in the economy. He emphasized the need to facilitate migration within the region to boost economic opportunities, though this requires greater trust in each country’s administrative systems. He noted that while South Africa adopts a more conservative stance on regional people movement, other countries in the region are taking bolder steps.

However, he expressed concerns regarding the Department of Home Affairs’ capacity to implement these proposed changes, citing ongoing issues like corruption and mismanagement. The interview with Professor Hirsch thus provided a comprehensive overview of the complexities and challenges associated with the proposed overhaul of South Africa’s citizenship, immigration, and refugee protection laws.

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