Global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration: towards realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving full respect for the human rights of migrants

The Outcome of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda 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.

Whilst recognising the rights of migrants, the Outcome also addresses the need for strengthening the resilience of communities hosting refugees.


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 fuel out-migration on the continent. 

These factors are usually as a result of the imbalance between rapid population growth, available resources and the incapacity to create employment and jobs at the countries of origin.

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 experience large mixed-migration flows and seen an unprecedented number of migrants and refugees seeking opportunities and sanctuary in the country post-independence.

Its 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 stretch 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 exerts pressures on the economy, social services and infrastructure, which in turn gives rise to competition for these scarce resources with local poor and working class communities, heightening tensions which on several occasions have led to xenophobic violence directed at immigrants.

South Africa fully supports the UN Secretary General’s proposed global campaign against xenophobia.

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.

In attempting to alleviate these tensions and pressures the government has both sought to engage the local communities to understand the rights of immigrants whilst at the same time 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 that migration plays in our society and economy through an extensive review of the international migration policy outlook currently underway in the country.

The objective of this policy framework is to better equip South Africa to manage the challenges presented by migration and harness its opportunities for both the local communities as well as immigrants.

Through this process, SA is also determined to develop forward-looking solutions, based on a management approach rather than one which views migration primarily as a security threat to be limited or controlled.

This policy will be based on pragmatism, objectivity and international best practice, and aims to be futuristic and dynamic enough to adapt to changing circumstances and take on board new realities, challenges, opportunities and risks. 


While mixed migration presents some challenges to the domestic labour market, a balance must be struck between regional solidarity and national interest.

It is South Africa’s view that there are benefits in the long-term to adopting a more integrated approach leading to a more prosperous region and continent.

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

Whilst poverty and under-development are widely regarded as key drivers of the displacement of people and in turn can lead to armed conflict and instability, cross border destabilisation of countries must not be neglected as people tend thereafter to seek to follow the development and stability stolen from their countries by migrating to the countries or regions they view as culprits.

Accordingly, a concerted global effort to address the questions of under-development and armed conflict should be a central focus of all Member States.

Indeed, the African Union aspires under its Agenda 2063 to silence all guns by 2020.

South Africa believes that peace and security, development and human rights are mutually-reinforcing and interlinked.

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.

We have equally played an instrumental role, under the auspices of the African Union in the establishment of the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) aimed at ensuring the acceleration of regional infrastructure development around the African Continent.

It is our view that any commitments towards a“Global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration: towards realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving full respect for the human rights of migrants” that are not accompanied by tangible resource mobilization and concrete interventions to relieve pressures from the developing countries by the developed nations are unlikely to lead the international community to any realization of these otherwise noble ideals.

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

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.

I thank you.


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