No Hope for the ‘Foreigners’: The Conflation of Refugees and Migrants in South Africa


In South Africa there is a conflation between refugees and other migrants at a legislative, policy and narrative level. Based on 32 interviews and four focus groups conducted in Johannesburg and Musina in spring 2020, we show the conflation between refugees and migrants through changing legislation, a bureaucratized system which makes access to any legal status difficult and political narratives that serve to construct a threat. This results in dangerous, sometimes violent consequences for migrant communities themselves. The conflation is however a political non-distinction that is made purposefully in the interest of increasing domestic legitimacy.

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