SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Migration issues from different perspectives

This blog post reflects on the most recent edition of the African Human Mobility Review (AHMR). The AHMR is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed on-line and in print journal created to encourage and facilitate the study of all aspects  of human mobility in Africa (socio-economic, political, legislative and developmental). Through the publication of original research, policy discussions and evidence-based research papers, the AHMR provides a comprehensive forum devoted exclusively to the analysis of contemporaneous trends, migration patterns and some of the most important migration-related issues. The journal is accessible on-line at no charge. AHMR is jointly owned by the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa (SIHMA) and University of the Western Cape (UWC). [2] 

The AHMR published Volume 7 Number 2 of the Journal in August 2021 [1] which includes a series of interesting articles for discussion and personal reflection on the state of different realities.

In this  edition of the journal each article centres on different issues giving space to different themes in relation to migration. The first article addresses the difficulties involved in working with unaccompanied refugee children, specifically in Polokwane, a city in north-eastern South Africa. The second is a compilation of the South African populations’ perspectives on migration and European migrants, while the third addresses the perceptions of the economy held, and migration risks encountered, by young migrants  and what is/are the motivation/s for their migration. The fourth article addresses the need to prioritise asylum recognition processes in South Africa in order to avoid situations of abandonment in emergency contexts, and the fifth and final article deals with the differences in access to different services and areas of fundamental care based on the administrative situation in the country of residence, focusing on the cases of Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. It is therefore a varied publication that covers not only migratory aspects from the point of view of those who migrate, but also from the point of view of the destination society, its inhabitants and the institutions that form part of these migratory undertakings.


Complexities in the Case Management of Unaccompanied Minors: Perceptions of Social Workers Practicing in the Polokwane Child and Youth Care Centres 

The experience of the social workers in Child and Youth Care Centres in Polokwane has been the basis for this article, and the fact that South Africa's position as an attractive migrant receiving country has contributed to the multiplication of the number of unaccompanied migrant minors in the territory and the corresponding  increase in pressure on social assistance provision. 

If the protection of minors is already an issue that requires multiple considerations, the fact that these minors are foreigners and lack family/social protection system in the country of destination further complicates the process of social intervention. In addition to which, social workers face, among others, problems in the application for identification documentation for and assistance of these minors and are over worked due to the lack of a budget that would allow for a greater recruitment of social work professionals [3]. 

Some interesting findings in this article revolve around the varying profiles of many unaccompanied minors; the difficulties generated by the lack of interconnection of data between social institutions; and the great challenge of working with minors who do not have identification documentation [3].

This paper undoubtedly conveys the importance of the coordination and collaboration of the child protection systems within a region in order to achieve the effective development of assistance and intervention processes with minors, taking into account the double vulnerability of this group as minors, and migrants.  


European Immigrants in Johannesburg: Perceptions, Privileges and their Implications for Migration Experiences

The general idea of migration is an element that is modified according to the origin of the newcomers and the perception by the population in the destination context. 

This article reviews the understanding of European immigration in Johannesburg and other immigration from the point of view of South Africans. Aspects such as the almost non-existent competition for the same type of jobs between European migrants and indigenous South Africans are established as one of the elements that favour the acceptance of foreigners. This is as they are perceived as complementary to and promoters of the country's economic development. Consideration of the way people of different nationalities behave, in the eyes of South Africans, is one of the key factors that generates greater or lesser social acceptance [4]. 

This article also illustrates different concessions that favour the position of European migrants with respect to other immigrants, such as, for example, the socio-labour networks of this segment of the population that favour their establishment in the labour market and the change from one production sector to another thanks to these networks. It is also stressed that, even in the absence of these networks among Europeans, the economic "comfort" of many European migrants favours access to the more comfortable labour sector, while they maintain links with their respective countries of origin for emergency cases, such as health services, for example [4]. This overview of perceptions is clearly inconsistent with the perception of migrants from other African countries who express their incomprehension of a better reception by people from the European continent than those from the continent itself. 

This article is therefore an interesting representation of the situation of the different foreign nationalities in Johannesburg, enriched by the points of view of locals and foreigners who add and justify their views on the subject.


Economic and Risk Perceptions Motivating Illegal Migration Abroad: Port Harcourt City Youths, Nigeria

With the increase in migration in the global context, several studies have been undertaken to identify and understand the motivational elements that form part of the migrants' planning of these mobility projects. In this particular article, the effort focuses on identifying those elements that give weight to the choice of destination and seal the final migration decision of youths in the Port Harcourt City area of Nigeria. This analysis is done through a qualitative study to analyse information and data from young migrants in previously selected foreign destination countries [5]. 

The study reviewed by the author underlines that the difficulty faced by young Nigerians aiming to access jobs that allow for economic emancipation, which is a major factor in the young people's decision to emigrate, in addition to the image of prosperity and abundance of work in the European context. It is also evident that there is a lack of in-depth knowledge of the different risks involved in migration and how the weight of families also plays an important role in this migratory process [5]. 

Therefore, the different needs for the development of their life projects added to the lack of complete information about the risks and implications of their journeys could be established as the basis for the beginning of these movements. Thanks to this document, the need for more information projects on the enormous difficulties in the different types of migration and the processes of integration and access to a stable economic activity and a regular administrative situation in the destination context becomes evident.


Bureaucratic Barriers to Social Protection for Refugees and Asylum Seekers during the COVID-19 Disaster in South Africa

The global pandemic of COVID-19 caught us unawares and despite the serious disruption to previous ways of life, it has also been a learning experience that has highlighted the handicaps of our bureaucratic systems and the failures that these processes can pose for people who depend on the management of certain procedures.  

Social protection for refugees and asylum seekers is the focus of this paper, which reviews the journey these processes underwent during the period of closure of direct care services. Despite the social emergency relief measures that were proposed during the period of confinement, initiatives such as the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants did not cover the refugee or international protection applicant population due to the non-compliance that their administrative figures represented for the requirements proposed in the assistance proposals [6]. 

The lack of documentation and paused status recognition processes posed a real problem for these people who suffered human rights violations on different levels. The failures of the administrative system were highlighted in large part by this period of global health emergency and have served to highlight weaknesses and to propose improvements to the response and processing systems. The protection of vulnerable groups is established as an issue of enormous importance and even more so in cases where a pause in their administrative procedures generates such levels of human distress as well as the non-fulfilment of fundamental human rights.


The Link between Documentation Status, Occupation Status, and Healthcare Access for African Migrants: Evidence from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa

The existence of a regular administrative status documents or lack thereof can make a big difference in access to different services in destination contexts, but the extent to which this difference can make a difference is different depending on the legal landscape of each destination country. To explore this issue in more depth, the authors analysed three different contexts (Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa) in order to establish a clearer picture of the interrelationship between legal and social status and its weight in the development and access to other vital areas for the African migrant population. 

To this end, experiences and data from different statuses are collected and compared in order to carry out a final analysis of the degree of access to a service as basic as health care. Some of the findings indicate that, despite the fact that most of the migrants surveyed have fairly decent access to basic health care services thanks to the policies in place, the lack of platforms for temporary recognition of migrants' status generates significant inequality in the medium term. The ineffectiveness of migration policy models to discern between the differences of different migrant groups and their origins is an element that has a direct impact on migrants' health. In addition, intersectional elements such as gender and occupation are two important pillars in the overall picture that still fail to receive holistic consideration with respect to migrants' conditions [7]. 

While the deficits of migration policy systems generally are clearly highlighted, the particular perceptions and realities for different migrant segments are also explored identifying specific differences. For example, asylum seekers reporting a lower degree of access to the health system than refugees. This may be due to the legal regulations and policies within the legal framework connected to their refugee or asylum seeker status [7]. 

This paper undoubtedly helps us to identify certain existing perspectives and to generate further questions around other issues that remain to be analysed due to the baseline differences between the three systems analysed and the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic that affected some of the data collected.  


It is a great pleasure for SIHMA in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape to publish the peer reviewed African Human Mobility Review (AHMR) Journal. If you would like to receive the SIHMA newsletter and/or information on the most resent AHMR publication email or to access the AHMR publication visit or .



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  1. Read more about the AHMR journal here: 
  2. Last journal issue:
  3. Complexities in the Case Management of Unaccompanied Minors: Perceptions of Social Workers Practicing in the Polokwane Child and Youth Care Centres Aklilu Asha and Matlou Nkwana, available at: 
  4. European Immigrants in Johannesburg: Perceptions, Privileges and their Implications for Migration Experiences, available at: 
  5. Economic and Risk Perceptions Motivating Illegal Migration Abroad: Port Harcourt City Youths, Nigeria, available at:  
  6. Bureaucratic Barriers to Social Protection for Refugees and Asylum Seekers during the COVID-19 Disaster in South Africa, available at:
  7. The Link between Documentation Status, Occupation Status, and Healthcare Access for African Migrants: Evidence from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, available at: 


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