Lived Experience of Immigrants’ Social Inclusion in Durban


The current era is one in which varied forms of human migration, across cities, nations and geopolitical frontiers are redefining the meaning of ‘home’, ‘community’ and ‘belonging’. Durban is home to thousands of migrants mostly from the African continent, most of them economic refugees fleeing unemployment and poverty in their own countries. According to migration scholars, migration had its own functions for different groups and societies, which included the pursuit of sheer survival, search for better opportunities and improved conditions, and of course, the consolidation of advantages and benefits. As the African City increasingly becomes metropolitan, new scents are smelt, new tastes savored, new sounds heard, and above all, new faces are seen. Migrants not only leave their homelands and find ways into new spaces, rather they reshape themselves along with relations, values, and institutions in the host country. In the host country they become subject to different laws and regulations; they take on new customs; they have different neighbours, and they learn new languages, skills and reshape their own history. Durban is not a peculiar case to the aforementioned. What stands out is the degree and nature migrants’ inclusion and or integration into the social, economic, and spatial fabric of the city. It is therefore important and necessary to find, understand and share the experiences of migrants in the City of Durban (eThekwini) as far as its inclusiveness is concerned. The purpose of this report is to give voice to the opinions and perspectives of migrants with lived experience to inform and guide institutions and develop coordinated community responses that meet the direct needs of this population group within the city.


The research team under the SARChI for Inclusive Cities from University of KwaZulu Natal, School of Built Environments and Developments Studies, conducted a focus group discussion (FGD) at Winners Chapel International, on the month of August 2021. The FGDs lasted around one hour and thirty minutes each. The sessions were audio-recorded and fully transcribed, with the consent of the respondents, and each was given a gift card as an incentive for their participation. Taking into consideration the language diversity within the participants population sample, English was used as was used as a medium of communication and all participants were able to speak and understand it. The sessions began with the facilitator greeting and introducing himself and give a brief introduction to the project for the benefit of participants. Demographic profiling of the participants was established after the introductory remarks. As discussion commence and proceeded with clear understanding of the research and consent from the participants, the facilitator probed for understanding, covering the following topics: Durban’s spatial inclusion to migrants; Durban’s inclusiveness to migrants through political and civil participation; Durban’s inclusion of migrants through access to public services

and public space; Durban’s inclusiveness to migrants as it relates to economic opportunities; Durban’s inclusiveness to migrants as it related to access to education; Durban’s inclusiveness to migrants in relation to access to housing; and Durban’s degree of inclusion of migrants in relation to public safety and security. Recruitment of the focus group participants was conducted by professional researcher under SARChI for Inclusive Cities in order to ensure an appropriate demographic mix. The sample frame included migrants systematically stratified by socioeconomic status and life stage, living in different localities within Durban.


  1. The main thrust of this report was to bring forth the experience of foreign migrants around issues of spatial, political and socio-economic inclusion in the city of Durban as the host society.
  2. Contrary to the ambition of Durban or eThekwini Metropolitan to become Africa’s most caring and liveable city by 2030, migrants seem to perceive it as becoming a city of despair on a grand scale.
  3. The dominant perspective and experience among participants describe the host environment unaccommodating.
  4. In reaction to the swelling ‘politics of non-belonging’ in South Africa, there is the need for progressive leaders, policy makers and scholars alike must stand up to challenge the rhetoric of nativism, autochthony and ultra-nationalism.
  5. The report unearths the fact that cultural purity is an oxymoron; and reiterate the age long desire to fix human identity in space and place.
  6. The report indicated that It is possible to imagine a future in which openness to outside influence is celebrated as a virtue.
  7. The process of including migrants in the crucial aspects of the city fabric is not conclusive, but rather it is the making of headway and progression towards achieving the acceptance of difference within diverse spaces that makes metropolitans momentous.
  8. The report also recommends that in calling for attention to place real integration and inclusion in migration policy-making discourse, there remains an urgent need for the South African government to leverage on skilled migrants for the benefit of the state.
  9. At least civil participation and basic human rights shouldn’t be politicised or deprived anyone regardless of their originality.
  10. Politician and other authorities must receive training around issues of treating migrants and their rights.
  11. Migrants are here to stay and they are part of our society.

NB: Watch out for full peer view publications and policy brief on this project

Principal Investigators:
Professor H.H Magidimisha-CHIPUNGU
Professor Lovemore CHIPUNGU