Document Type

Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) Series

Publication Date



The MIDSA project on legal harmonization of immigration and refugee law in the Southern African Development Community had four main objectives: (a) to collect and collate information on national legislation in a single publication as a resource for policy-makers; (b) to identify points of similarity and difference in national immigration law between SADC-member states; (c) to investigate the possibilities for harmonization of national immigration policy and law; and (d) in the interests of good governance and regional cooperation and integration to make specific recommendations for harmonization. A second, parallel, SAMP study is investigating the issue of harmonization of migration data collection systems within SADC.

For ease of inter-country comparison, the report contains a series of comparative tables covering all facets of the immigration regime of the SADC states. The tables can be used as a resource in themselves but are also used to supplement the analysis in the text proper. This executive summary focuses on the main findings and recommendations of the narrative report.

The states of the SADC have committed themselves to increased regional cooperation and integration. This commitment is reflected in a series of Protocols to which the various states are signatory. The Protocol dealing with the cross-border migration of people within SADC (the so-called “Draft Free Movement Protocol”) owed too much to European (Schengen) precedent and too little to the political and economic realities of the region. As a result, the Protocol (and a modified version called the “Facilitation of Movement Protocol”) was rejected by certain states in the region (primarily the migrant-receiving states). The level of opposition was such that the Protocol was shelved by SADC in 2000.

While this publication is not designed to promote or contest the idea of free movement, it is the belief of the MIDSA partners that good migration governance is a general aim to which all can subscribe. To that end it makes perfect sense for the individual states of SADC to re-examine their current legislation. Migration has changed dramatically in the last decade and a review of the adequacy of existing legal and policy instruments would be a positive development for all states. Beyond the issue of updating legislation and making it more relevant to current management challenges, it is clear that regional cooperation in migration management would be facilitated by a set of basic principles and laws that applied more-or-less across the region. Obviously each country has certain unique features and each state reserves the right to pursue its own immigration policy. However, there are many features of migration governance that are common to all and there is nothing to be lost, and a great deal to be gained, by simplification and standardization.

A regional review of this nature also allows for an analysis of the degree to which individual states have been influenced by or subscribe to international conventions and norms in the migration and refugee protection areas. A secondary purpose of this publication is therefore to stimulate a regional debate on the extent to which individual SADC states do or should adhere to the principles of international conventions and guidelines on the movement of peoples and the protection of the persecuted.