This paper explores the impact of migration on families in South Africa, with a specific focus on self-settled Somali refugees in Johannesburg, South Africa. It argues that despite a progressive legal framework, which guarantees protection and rights to refugees and migrants in South Africa, conditions for migrant families and family life are bleak given the poor socio-economic conditions and xenophobic context that non-nationals find themselves in. Although international migration to South Africa continues to increase, as the country’s political stability, and economic dominance grows in the region, family-centered policy for migrants and public discourse on social inclusion and integration lags behind. At the same time, high levels of unemployment, underemployment, poverty, and social and economic inequality exist in this city, creating a context in which marginal groups like migrants, refugees and the poor experience multiple levels of exclusion and vulnerability. For Somali women in particular these difficult conditions are further complicated by the paradox they face between opportunity and risk given the collapse of social and family structures in the Diaspora.


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