Migrants in Countries in Crisis: South Africa Case Study: The Double Crisis – Mass Migration From Zimbabwe And Xenophobic Violence in South Africa

The protracted economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe led directly to a major increase in mixed migration flows to South Africa. Migrants were drawn from every sector of society, all education and skill levels, equal numbers of both sexes, and all ages (including unaccompanied child migration). Many migrants claimed asylum in South Africa which gave them the right to work while they waited for a refugee hearing. Many others were arrested and deported back to Zimbabwe. This report first discusses the nature of the crisis in Zimbabwe and its connections with large-scale out-migration, particularly to South Africa. The South African response to crisis-driven migration is reviewed showing how the government shifted from a predominantly coercive and control-oriented policy towards a more realistic assessment of the need to accommodate migrants through an immigration amnesty and the right to work in the formal and informal sector. One of the major challenges facing migrants and all stakeholders in South Africa is xenophobic violence. Nationwide attacks on migrants and refugees in 2008 and 2015 have been interspersed with ongoing lower-level episodes of violence. These attacks have increasingly targeted migrants and refugees, including many Zimbabweans, seeking to make a living in the country’s urban informal economy.