Fr. Limukani Ndlovu
The subject of migration has become topical in local and international forums and some people describe this era as the “age of migration”. Migration is a global phenomenon which existed since time immemorial. It involves movements both within nations and internationally across borders to reside permanently or temporarily in a country other than one’s country of birth (UNHR: 2015). It is a movement of persons across their political boundaries (Tevera and Zinyama: 2006) to other countries motivated by various push and pull factors, predominantly by socio-economic and political security conditions.
Recent utterances by the South African health official Dr. Phophi Ramathuba have escalated migration ethical, political and diplomatic debates to higher levels. Pope Francis imagines that while the Holy Family of Nazareth remained in Egypt it certainly needed to eat, to find a home and employment. It faced concrete challenges so many of migrant brothers and sisters risk to escape misfortune, political persecution, poverty and hunger (Patris Corde: 21). There is need to balance equations of obligation and duty, right and privilege, hospitality and choice. As humans compete for resources there are some unavoidable questions which relate to who is entitled and who is not. Every state ought to fulfil its constitutional obligations towards its citizens by providing fundamental amenities.
Hospitality and respect has to be extended towards foreigners (cf. Dt 24:19-21; 26:5). “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner” (Dt 27:19; Ps 94:6, 146:9). For, when a stranger sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong but treat the stranger as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers. (cf. Lv 19:33-34).
The prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah remind us of our obligation to protect the vulnerable, “Do what is just and right. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner…” (Jer 22:3) and do not oppress the foreigner (cf. Zec 7:10). Similarly, the prophet Malachi announces God’s judgment against those who oppress and deprive justice to the foreigners (cf. Mal 3:5).
Since the Great Trek migration movement from 1836-1854 where 15,000 people emigrated from the Cape colony in the South to the northern parts and thus further into the country’s inland (Marita: 2018), migrants make up more than 1 billion of the world’s population. Millions of people would like to move to another country if they had the opportunity. In the SADC region, South Africa is the single largest country for migration from Zimbabwe (Chereni and Bongo: 2018). Zimbabwe is the biggest exporter of migrant labour in South Africa. The Telegraphy recently published that thousands of Zimbabwe’s trained care professionals are seeking employment abroad. Migration figures cannot be ascertained since migration occurs through both official channels and informal routes. Zimbabwe’s Red Cross academies are filled to seams with UK-hopeful care-work trainees (Mwareya: 2022).
As Pope emeritus Benedict XVI noted, millions of migrants, are searching for a homeland and a peaceful country and this movement reveals the hidden magnitude of the different types of poverty produced by deficiencies in public governance. Sadly, migrants encounter all kinds of violence, exploitation and death. These precarious situations of migrants should awaken everyone’s compassionate solidarity rather than fear and anxiety.
Migrants cannot be treated as a burden, viewed with suspicion and taken as a source of danger, insecurity and in some instances as usurpers who have nothing to offer (Fratelli Tutti: 141). Negative perceptions provoke reactions of intolerance, xenophobia and racism. Through the precariousness of their situation, migrants are forced to do low-paid work, often illegal and dehumanizing. Migration is a complex human drama which seriously affects Africa’s human capital, leading to the destabilization and furtherance of manipulation by the elitists.
Migrants can be agents of transformation to the receiving communities. The migration of humanity is a blessing not a problem. By confining migrants to camps, humanity has failed to protect and develop the life of a stranger who is the image of Christ. Their misery challenges us to see the love of Christ towards migrants (cf. 2 Cor 5:14) and to look afresh at their problems (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi: 2004), because man is simply a Homo migrans. Aptly speaking, there is no person with roots. Therefore, it is a lie for certain populist political regimes and certain liberal economic approaches to maintain that an influx of migrants should be prevented at all costs (Fratelli Tutti: 37). Equally unethical for politicians to foment and exploit fear over immigration, ignoring the fact that migrants possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person.