(2021) 2 TWAIL Review 1-33
Published under a Creative Commons licence.
Southern African regional migration legal and policy frameworks and state practice poorly govern interconnection: lives lived through and across borders. Instead, contemporary approaches to migration governance in southern Africa, and the logics and capacity issues underpinning policymaking in this field, contribute to contemporary problems associated with migration, such as illegality, immobilised poverty and xenophobic violence. In effect, the existing regional and national regimes and their foreseeable trajectory undercut people’s capacity to sustain independent livelihoods and to enjoy the rights and privileges that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has identified as entitlements of southern Africans. We examine the SADC’s migration governance framework, highlighting its competing normative commitments and making explicit the logics it facilitates, the forces that shape it, and how it allocates benefits among individuals and communities in the region. We situate our analysis within the colonial history of migration in the region, highlighting how colonially structured socio-economic interconnection and resulting migration patterns in the past have relevance for the present. We highlight continuities in the way that the contemporary migration governance regime facilitates historical patterns of exploitation and precarity, in a manner at odds with the decolonial movements and spirit that animated the SADC’s predecessor formation as the Frontline States. Finally, we propose reorientation of the reform momentum in the region, away from the inertia created by European Union-funded knowledge and policy production forces towards trajectories that are more decolonial in nature.