Migration Governance and Migrant Rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC): Attempts at Harmonization in a Disharmonious Region

Organization(s): UNRISD
Author: Belinda Dodson, Jonathan Crush
Regions: Southern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2015
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This paper examines prospects for enhanced regional migration governance and protection of migrants’ rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Migration in this region is substantial in scale and diverse in nature, incorporating economic, political and mixed migration flows. In addition to movements between countries within the region, migrants also come from across the African continent and even further afield. At its foundation in 1992, SADC as an institution initially embraced a vision of intra-regional free movement, but this has not become a reality. If anything, there has been a hardening of anti-migrant attitudes, not least in the principal destination country of South Africa. There have also been serious violations of migrants’ rights. Attempts at regional coordination and harmonization of migration governance have made limited progress and continue to face formidable challenges, although recent developments at national and regional levels show some promise. In conjunction with the 2003 SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights and 2008 Code on Social Security, incorporation of migrants into the SADC 2014 Employment and Labour Protocol could signal a shift towards more rights-based migration governance. The paper concludes by arguing that there can be no robust rights regime, either regionally or in individual countries, without extension of labour and certain other rights to non-citizens, nor a robust regional migration regime unless it is rights-based.

Social Protection and Human Rights