More than one million Zimbabweans living in South Africa without a visa face a New Year's deadline to get government permits to stay in the country.
In 2009, South Africa introduced a policy of allowing hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans to enter the country without papers as Zimbabwe descended into instability.
Families who fled the political and economic chaos in Zimbabwe have been trying to build new lives in the richer neighbouring country.
But if they do not legalise their status by Friday night, they will be forced back across the border.
With time running out, campaigners say thousands of Zimbabweans could be forcibly deported - and that could trigger a wave of violence.
What does it mean for the migrants trying to escape Zimbabwe? And does South Africa really want them?
Shadrack Gutto, a professor of African Renaissance Studies at the University of South Africa, joins us to discuss the situation, along with Michael Nyam-areb-vu from the Solidarity Peace Trust, and Daniel Hammett, a lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield.
This episode of Inside Story aired from Friday, December 31, 2010.