Key Points:

  • There is a perception that South Africans regard immigrants with suspicion, fear, and rejection. This is said to create commercial tensions that have negative political, social, and economic effects.
  • The central objective of the Witbank case study was to investigate the nature and extent of immigration to the town, the roles of immigrants in the local economy, and the nature and prevalence of xenophobic attitudes among Witbank residents towards those immigrants.
  • One reason why Witbank has attracted so many immigrants may be its relative prosperity, bestowed by its status as a centre of coal mining. Certain features of Witbank’s location in its region appear to favour substantial and varied immigration.
  • There is real uncertainty over the status of international migrants to Witbank, not only for the obvious reason that undocumented migrants are reluctant to be surveyed, but also because of the apparent ease with which documents can be obtained in irregular ways.
  • Managing migration effectively, humanely and, above all, in the national interest, is a public policy challenge facing many countries in both the developed and developing worlds.

Press release: Immigrants in South Africa – Perceptions and reality in Witbank