Daily News/Sapa/AFP, 28 August 2008

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Experts yesterday slammed what they called South Africa's lack of a migration policy on Africans, saying it was a major reason for recent bloody anti-immigrant violence. "There is a gross negligence on the part of officials to manage migration and understand other Africans. There is a need for a humane and sensible migration policy in South Africa," said Ann Bernstein of the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), an independent policy research body. A "proper and coherent" policy on migration should recognise the "inevitability" of African immigrants in South Africa, she said in a round-table discussion on migration. "We have to face the challenge (of migrants) in South Africa instead of panicking about them," she said. More than 60 people were killed across South Africa in anti-immigrant violence in May, which began in Johannesburg. Negative perceptions about immigrants must be taken seriously by policy makers, she said. According to a 2006 CDE survey on migration in Johannesburg, about 14% of the city's 3.9 million population, or about 550 000, are foreigners. South African officials should deal with migration in ways that give citizens "confidence on the positive contribution" of migrants to the nation's development, the study said. Mamphela Ramphele, a former co-chair of the Global Commission on International Migration, said South Africa needed to learn from other countries, such as Canada and Australia, on migration management. She said government should educate citizens on immigration - who immigrants are, their situation and what has driven them out of their country.