Chairperson, Director-General Mahoai

His Excellency, Ambassador Pietro Mona,

His Excellency, Ambassador Mauricio Escanero,

Representative of the IOM Director-General, Mr Ashraf El-Nour,

Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,

Heads of UN Agencies and International Organisations, and

Esteemed guests and participants:


May I, at the outset, welcome you to this important Briefing on behalf of the Government and people of South Africa.

We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity given to us to host this High-Level Briefing on the ongoing negotiation process towards developing the United Nations Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

It is by design and not a coincidence that South Africa serves as a venue for this important Briefing as our country is one of the countries hosting the largest number of migrants globally.

The GCM process emanates from the 2016 September High-Level Summit to address the Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, which I had the honour to attend.

Critical to this process is the New York Declaration which contains within it the fundamental principles underpinning the GCM, namely, responsibility and burden sharing based on the level of development of Member States, international cooperation and solidarity, people-centred and human rights-based approaches.

All of these serve as basis of South Africa’s approach and response.

However, this should be a collective effort and not the responsibility of just one country.

This therefore, underscores the importance South Africa attaches to this process, hence the involvement of my country from inception in the formal and informal process that culminated into the stocktaking meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in December 2017.

Migration is not a matter that can be resolved by Governments alone, it needs a multiplicity of stakeholders.

In this regard, South Africa wishes to commend the co-facilitators for the transparent and inclusive approach in its engagement with the multi-stakeholders over and above Member States.

We wish also to commend the IOM for the coordinating role and technical expertise it has availed to this process. 

We are pleased to learn that this process, complex and challenging as it is, thus far is progressing well as the convergence of views is beginning to emerge.   

South Africa is committed to regional economic integration and is intrinsically part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

As you will know, international migration is one of the most important policy issues of our time, with huge political, economic, social and moral implications.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outlining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals pays particular attention to the people, planet and prosperity.

It emphasises a holistic and inclusive approach to addressing underdevelopment and poverty.

It recognises the positive contribution migration makes to inclusive growth and development and therefore calls on Member States to strengthen their international support and cooperation to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration with full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The African Common Position acknowledged that poor socio-economic conditions, such as low wages, high levels of unemployment, rural underdevelopment, poverty and lack of opportunity tend to fuel out-migration on the continent. 

The African Common Position also recognises the different vulnerabilities being suffered by migrants, refugees and internally-displaced people (IDPs) including the separate normative frameworks that govern them.

As a developing country, South Africa has experienced large mixed-migration flows and seen an unprecedented number of migrants and refugees seeking opportunities and sanctuary in our country post-independence.

Our relatively strong economy, stable democracy, liberal and human rights centred policies arguably serve as a pull factor, offering migrants and refugees alike a sense of hope to break away from poverty, conflicts and underdevelopment.

Meanwhile, Sub-Saharan Africa has hosted and continues to host a vast number of forcibly displaced persons with limited resources and support, with South Africa being the largest single recipient of asylum seekers between 2008 and 2011.

In this regard, the country is regarded as a leader on the African Continent by availing to recognised forcibly displaced persons (refugees) within its territory human rights and fundamental freedoms as contained in the Constitution, such as freedom of movement and the right to choose where to live, work, study and access social services.

These freedoms demand that the Government stretches its limited resources to strike a balance between the needs of citizens and the provision of basic rights to migrants and refugees.

The migration particularly of low-skilled working class migrants poses a particular challenge as it exerts pressures on the economy, social services and infrastructure, which in turn gives rise to competition for scarce resources in local poor and working class communities, heightening tensions which on several occasions have led to outbursts of xenophobic violence directed at immigrants.

Both the South African government and civil society condemn xenophobia in all its forms.

The vulnerability, particularly of poor and working class migrants, and more especially women and children, has given rise to human rights abuses and exploitation, amongst others at the hands of criminal syndicates and unscrupulous public servants.

In attempting to alleviate these tensions and pressures, the government has sought to engage the local communities to understand the rights of immigrants, engage the immigrants in regard to their rights and responsibilities in South Africa and, at the same time, has been engaging with neighbouring countries, both bilaterally as well as multilaterally, on measures to facilitate and manage the orderly movement of migrants from the region as the starting point to protecting and safeguarding the rights of those coming to the country.

Such interventions serve as an important step towards a more comprehensive and progressive commitment in managing migration in the country.

In this regard, the Government has embarked on a comprehensive process of re-examining the role migration plays in our society and economy through the development of a new international migration policy, adopted in July 2017.

The new policy framework balances the primary imperatives of economic development, national security, international and constitutional obligations.

We have sought to align our international migration policy with our foreign policy which places South Africa as an integral part of the African continent, recognising that our national interest is inextricably linked to Africa’s stability, unity and prosperity.

The objective of this policy framework is to better equip South Africa to manage the challenges presented by migration and harness its opportunities for development, nation building and social cohesion.

South Africa recognises that in order adequately to address the forcible displacement of people, the root causes of this phenomenon should be addressed.

South Africa has, in collaboration with the African Union and SADC, made remarkable strides in illustrating political leadership to prevent, end conflicts and address the root causes through our involvement in High-level Political Mediation and Conciliation efforts as well as contributing to Peace-keeping and Peace-making Missions on the African Continent.

We have also been closely involved in Post-conflict Reconstruction and Development.

South Africa therefore welcomes the process of consultation and negotiation to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

This compact is long overdue, particularly the development of a proactive and collaborative approach to manage migration for development and the realization of human rights.

It is our view that the Global Compact must be accompanied by tangible resource mobilization and concrete interventions which respond to the pressures experienced by developing countries.

The developed countries should do more to encourage the constructive resolution of protracted conflicts and facilitate economic development.

International migration must be linked to wider development and inclusive growth discussions across the globe.

For as long as Africa remains responsible for only 2% of global trade, despite having roughly 16% of the world’s population, the world cannot be surprised that tens of thousands of Africans seek annually to migrate to Europe in search of economic opportunity.

The global compact on migration must assist us to prevent human rights abuses of migrants in North Africa, whether in detention centres or in transit to destination countries in Europe.

The unequivocal message from this meeting must be that leadership and commitment are the cornerstone of visible global action to advance and protect the rights of migrants and refugees.


In conclusion, South Africa envisages a Compact that, among others:

  • recognises the centrality of the fundamental principle of national sovereignty of States to determine who may enter and exit its territory, and on what terms,
  • addresses issues relating to the acquisition of citizenship and right to nationality, including visa regimes to be effected in a fair and balanced manner,
  • reflects the human rights-oriented approach and the need to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, with particular attention to migrants in vulnerable situations such as unaccompanied and separated children;
  • promotes the centrality of regional organisations in the management of international migration,
  • strengthens leadership role of the IOM in so far as coordination is concerned, hence the need to support the UN Secretary General’s reform initiatives in this regard,
  • locates the migration agenda formally into the UN Programmes as opposed to the current configuration where migration is addressed in a fragmented manner, and
  • encourages global cooperation in managing international migration. 


I thank you.