A critical assessment of the experiences of Nigerian migrants resident in Durban, South Africa.
Ayantokun, Ayandeji Sunday.
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International migration is on the rise. Propelled by political conflict, economic crises, environmental challenges and infrastructure collapse in many countries, people are resorting to migration as a survival strategy and to seek peace and stability. The dwindling numbers of Nigerians in the South and less developed regions is related to harsh economic realities and social upheaval. Post-apartheid South Africa has continued to witness an influx of migrants from Southern African Development Community (SADC) and non-SADC countries, including Nigerians. Using a sample of 20 Nigerian migrants living in South Africa in the city of Durban, this study sought to critically assess their experiences before, during and after their migration. It focussed on the factors that influenced their migration, travel routes, and the socio-economic costs of migration as well as their lived experiences. A qualitative approach was employed and purposive and snowball sampling was used to select the sample, while data were collected by means of in-depth interviews. The findings revealed that economic and educational factors were the major reason for migration to South Africa. South Africa was the chosen destination because of the lower cost of migration and less difficulty in securing residence permits or tourist visas compared with Western countries. Durban was a favoured destination city due to the availability of economic opportunities and post-graduate scholarships at universities. The majority of the study participants arrived in the country via O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, while a few others entered from neighbouring countries where they were previously located. Those with scarce skills were able to secure employment with public and private institutions while others established themselves in the informal sector where they engage in different economic activities. The latter identified a lack of capital and exorbitant rent as major challenges. The study participants had integrated into local communities to some extent and had assimilated some aspects of local culture but expressed resentment towards South Africans. While they did not set a definite time when they would leave the country, they plan to migrate to countries in the West or to return to Nigeria once they have saved enough money. Even though they professed to be living a better life than in Nigeria they were not willing to recommend South Africa to compatriots seeking to leave their home country. Based on these findings, the study recommends that the South African government and non-governmental organisations raise awareness of the need for peaceful coexistence with migrants. It also recommends that credit should be extended to migrants that have proven themselves as entrepreneurs as this will create job opportunities and assist in mitigating the social ills confronting South Africa. Finally, the Nigerian Consulate should launch initiatives to highlight the positive impacts of Nigerians resident in South Africa and improve public perceptions of Nigeria.