Migration Policy Series
For the last two decades, Botswana has had the reputation as a “country of immigration,” based on the large-scale import of skilled expatriates from Africa, Asia and the West. Successive census reports and immigration data, as well as previous SAMP surveys undertaken in the late 1990s, confirm the appropriateness of the designation. The SAMP surveys concentrated on three themes: (a) the attitudes and migration behaviour of skilled foreigners in the country; (b) the attitudes of Batswana towards cross-border migration to South Africa; and (c) the emigration potential of skilled Batswana. The surveys highlighted the tolerant and generally welcoming attitude prevailing in Botswana towards outsiders.
Since those studies, however, the migration scene has changed considerably, with intolerance towards non-citizens growing in a country where it was unknown only a few years earlier. Against this background, the University of Botswana mounted the SAMP National Immigration Policy Survey (NIPS) in Botswana in 2001. This survey delved into areas not systematically considered in the earlier surveys: (a) citizen perceptions of immigrants, migrants and refugees groups and (b) attitudes towards Botswana’s own national immigration policy. The survey results are important for a number of reasons:
- Media reports of growing xenophobia need to be systematically assessed through rigorous survey methods. In other words, how widespread is the reported intolerance and is it more pervasive amongst some groups than others? Internationally, people with more conservative attitudes, little travel experience, limited personal contact with foreigners, and lower socio-economic status tend to be more intolerant than others. The question is whether this is also true in Botswana;
- Assuming that no government wishes to promote or condone xenophobia, a survey of this nature can provide important insights into the causes and dimensions of intolerance and assist government in formulating appropriate responses, including public education campaigns;
- A survey of citizen attitudes shows exactly how well-informed people actually are. Xenophobia is often based on misinformation and stereotyping. What images do Batswana hold of immigrants, migrants and refugees? How aware are they of the ideal of refugee protection and the government’s international commitments to the UN and OAU conventions?
- Skilled foreign nationals who come legally to the country for periods of time need to feel that they are welcome. If they are not, as in South Africa, then they will cease to come which could have negative consequences for the national economy;
- The survey seeks to provide government with up-to-date information on the attitudes of their constituency towards current immigration policy and possible future options. How responsive, for example, are the citizens of Botswana to SADC proposals for softer borders within the region?
Campbell, E.K., & Oucho, J.O. (2003). Changing Attitudes to Immigration and Refugee Policy in Botswana (rep., pp. i-35). Waterloo, ON: Southern African Migration Programme. SAMP Migration Policy Series No. 28.