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Category Archives: Labour Migration

Cash Transfers- Support for migrant domestic workers


The reality of the COVID-19 virus in the Southern Africa region remains very present. Pressing and multidimensional challenges that arose since the outbreak of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020 continue to be felt by all groups of the population including migrant workers. Migrant domestic workers have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, as many do not have formal contracts or access to social security.

Consequently, the already more severe food insecurity among low-paid workers such as domestic workers worsened during national strict lockdowns for those who had temporarily or permanently lost their employment. In addition, migrant workers often have difficulties accessing government support programs. For example, Human Rights Watch noted in May 2020 that “The South African government’s Covid-19 aid programs, including food parcels, have overlooked refugees and asylum seekers”.[i] Similarly, Botswana media reported that “immigrants were initially excluded from the Botswana government’s food parcels”.[ii]

It is against this background that the International Labour Organization through the Southern Africa Migration Management Project (SAMM) funded by the European Commission launched an income relief activity to benefit migrant domestic workers. This initiative targeting migrant workers was started in Botswana and South Africa during state of emergency and severe lockdown restrictions in the course of 2020. In their calls for help, trade unions and migrant civil society organizations pointed at the serious threat to the survival of groups of migrants, including migrant domestic workers.

Accordingly, and in collaboration with the Botswana Domestic and Allied Workers Union, around four hundred (400) food parcels were distributed to migrant domestic workers in various parts of Botswana. The distribution took place in urban and rural areas in July and August 2020. Foreign nationals working as child minders, cleaners, gardeners and cooks received the relief in the form of food parcels. Many of the beneficiaries were Zimbabwean migrant women working as domestic workers.

In South Africa, more than 900 vulnerable migrant domestic workers living in Gauteng successfully received cash transfer to cover expenses relating to basic needs. These transfers were made available through Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance Project and the Disabled Disabled Migrants Rights Networking Organization. Most recipients used the cash to purchase food for members of their households including school-aged children. Female migrant domestic workers assisted through the ILO income relief grant represent the large majority of the beneficiaries, who included nationals from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

More recently, assistance was provided to returning migrant domestic workers in Lesotho. Facemasks, sanitizers and food parcels are being distributed to around 180 migrant domestic workers in several districts of the country.




[i] HRW.2020.South Africa: End Bias in Covid-19 Food Aid.

[ii] VAONEWS. 2020.On the Edge of Starvation, Hundreds of Zimbabweans in Botswana Want to Go Home.



Stranded Malawian Migrants Receive Support to Voluntarily Return Home from Mozambique

08 October 2020

Photo: Malawian migrants enter Maputo Airport for their return flight, after having been stranded in Mozambique. 5 October 2020 Photo-IOM-Sandra Black

Stranded in southern Mozambique after crossing the South Africa border, 52 Malawian migrants received support from IOM to voluntarily return home over the past six days. Travelling to Malawi by bus from South Africa to the Mozambique border, the vulnerable migrants, in separate groups, were all stopped in the area of Ressano Garcia checkpoint in Maputo Province due to irregular crossing and incomplete travel documents.

The Malawians had been working in South Africa, some for months, others for years. Due to the difficulty of making a living during the COVID-19 period, they decided to return and reunite with family members, however the return trip was more complex than expected.

The majority of the migrants spent more than two weeks in Ressano Garcia, first at a border police holding facility, and then at a hotel arranged by IOM. During the stay in Ressano Garcia, IOM provided food and clothing for some of the migrants who were identified as in need of assistance. Medical care was provided to two pregnant women as part of pre-departure assistance, to determine if they were fit to travel.

Several individuals lacked passports; IOM coordinated with the Malawi High Commission in Maputo to obtain emergency travel documents. The group of 52 migrants, including 41 men, 10 women and one child, requested to travel as soon as possible. Due to urgency, arrangements were quickly made for seats on commercial airlines from 2 October to 7 October, for the 1 hour 45-minute flight to Tete, Mozambique. IOM provided transportation to the Malawi border, a distance of approximately 90 km. National authorities, with support from IOM Malawi, provided the returnees with personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks, alcohol hand sanitizer and onward transport assistance to their communities of origin. The return movement of the migrants was overseen and accompanied by Mozambique’s National Migration Service (SENAMI), with continued support from the Malawi High Commission in Maputo.

“Before COVID-19, the situation was okay. I lived in Johannesburg, from January to February I did piece work and sold clothes. But after the COVID-19 lockdown started in South Africa it was not possible to work. We were suffering due to lack of jobs,” said Chipango Domin, a migrant from Malawi. “It was therefore better to return to our country. I am very happy to go back and meet my baby, who I have only seen in pictures.”

The migrants’ work in South Africa ranged from welding, food and clothing sales, to housekeeping and tailoring. Upon arrival back home they aspire to work opportunities including as welders, drivers, or to start small clothing sales business.

IOM Mozambique Chief of Mission, Dr. Laura Tomm-Bonde said: “Migrants are especially vulnerable in this COVID-19 period. The economic impact of COVID-19 affects their employment prospects, and the essential remittances that migrants send to support their families. In cooperation with Mozambican authorities, IOM is pleased to offer assistance to the migrants to voluntarily return home.”

The High Commissioner of the Republic of Malawi in Mozambique, HE Frank Elias Viyazhi said, “This group of Malawian migrants along with many others are in precarious situations during this period; we must properly follow COVID-19 quarantine and prevention guidelines, while also facilitating regular migration movements, especially returns. We are pleased to work together with IOM in this effort.”

Upon departure from Maputo Airport, one of the Malawian migrants explained, “I went to work in South Africa because I needed money to pay for school fees, food and clothes for my daughters; it is difficult to afford expenses for four children,” said Domisani Msowoya. “I worked as a housekeeper but the family left in June because of COVID-19. I have not been home in three years. When I go back to Malawi we will start a business selling second hand clothes. My daughters say ‘Come home, we are waiting for you!’”

The last remaining migrant in the group departed Maputo Airport on 7 October. He joined three migrants who held over in Tete. This final contingent of four travelled together and returned on 8 October to Malawi.

 The return was supported within the framework of the European Union-funded project “Southern Africa Migration Management” to respond to the protection and assistance needs of stranded and vulnerable migrants in the region impacted by COVID-19. Since June 2020, more than 1,000 stranded and vulnerable migrants have been assisted to return home safely.

Watch the video here.

For more information please contact:

Abibo Ngandu in IOM Regional Office for Southern Africa, Tel: +276 0779 7199, Email:

Mpilo Nkomo in IOM Malawi, Tel +265 999 975 801,

Sandra Black in IOM Mozambique, Tel: +258 852 162 278, Email:


IOM Facilitates the Safe and Dignified Return of 100 Vulnerable Malawian Migrants Stranded in Zimbabwe

IOM Facilitates the Safe and Dignified Return of 100 Vulnerable Malawian Migrants Stranded in Zimbabwe

23 May 2020

PHOTO: Malawian Migrants departing Zimbabwe for Malawi  ©IOM 2020 Evans Malewa
Harare – In response to urgent request by governments and migrants affected by the corona virus, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Zimbabwe in  collaboration with relevant Zimbabwe authorities and Malawi Embassy Officials in  Zimbabwe facilitated the voluntary  return of 100 Malawian nationals who were located within three different holding facilities in Zimbabwe. The  assisted migrants were travelling from Malawi en route to South Africa using the southern migratory route. Zimbabwe has been a transit country for migrants from Malawi and the Horn of Africa heading to South Africa to find work and other economic opportunities. Due to lack of alternatives to detention facilities in Zimbabwe, when apprehended by the law enforcement Officials, undocumented migrants, including minors, often end up in prisons. These irregular migrants were apprehended by the Zimbabwean law enforcement authorities and were detained for  unlawful entry into the country.

Some of the migrants were abandoned in Zimbabwe by smugglers and traffickers and remained in irregularly in the country, while others decided to return  to Malawi after realizing  the restrictive measures imposed by the governments of both Zimbabwe and South Africa that  impedes their migratory process to their final destination. . Migrants using the southern migratory route to South Africa are affected by a range of human smuggling and serious human rights violations including sexual abuse, torture, exploitation, neglect and even death.

IOM Zimbabwe, in coordination with the Embassy of Malawi in Harare, and with cooperation from the Department of Immigration and the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, in facilitated pre-departure assessment of the migrants to ensure compliance with the COVID 19 guidelines for sending and receiving countries. IOM’s assistance to return the  migrants in a safe and dignified way to their country of origin has relieved the returnees from the very difficult and vulnerable situation that they found themselves  with respect to the COVID-19 measures put in place by  governments. .

The beneficiaries included 86 males and 6 females; aged between 16 and 46 years (inclusive of seven minors). The returning migrants were received at the Mwanza Border in Malawi by officials from the the Department of Immigration , Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Social Welfare and Population, the Police and IOM representing the UN Family in Malawi. Upon arrival at the border, the returnees were cleared by Immigration and the Ministry of Health collected samples for COVID-19 testing while returnees waited for results at the border before they could be released to travel home. Once the results were out, returnees that tested Negative to COVID-19 and those that tested positive with no symptoms were allowed to go home and be on self-quarantine while their conditions were being monitored. Returnees who tested positive with symptoms were referred to treatment centre for medical management until they get better to be discharged to their homes where they continue with self-quarantine until they completely heal. All returnees cleared to join their families were provided with onward transportation and personal protective equipment (PPE) including hand and respiratory hygiene materials by IOM.

The migrants were assisted through the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) programme, funded by the European Union with the objective to reduce the suffering of vulnerable migrants in the Southern  Africa region through the provision of life-saving humanitarian and voluntary return assistance ,in response  to some of the COVID 19 related needs.  .

“Countries in the Southern African region have put restrictive measures in place, to fight the spread of COVID-19. Some of those measures have socio-economic impacts not only on their respective vulnerable groups, but also on the migrants, who usually find themselves on the fringes of society. In this collective endeavor, it is imperative to have a comprehensive and inclusive approach to national and regional responses to COVID-19, in order to prevent the spread of the virus”, said Mr. Charles Kwenin, IOM Regional Director for Southern Africa.

Between April and May 2020, eight established Points of entries in Zimbabwe have also recorded the arrival into the country of over 5,400 migrants from Zambia, Malawi, D.R. Congo, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa, adding pressure to existing social services and vulnerabilities. Most migrants  use Zimbabwe as a transit country on their  way to  Southern African countries. IOM, in collaboration with its sister  United Nations (UN)  Agencies and a number of Africa Diplomatic Missions and partners  are working together to provide the urgent humanitarian assistance to vulnerable population including migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and unaccompanied  migrant children adversely affected by the corona virus.

For more information, please contact Mario Lito Malanca  at IOM Zimbabwe, Tel. + 263 78 7108273, Email:


IOM Facilitates Return Home for Growing Trend of Irregular Migration between Malawi and Zimbabwe

PRETORIA, 8 July 2021 – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Southern Africa last March 2020, trends of irregular migration toward South Africa increased, due to the various socio-economic effects of the pandemic on many households.

The International Organization for Migration, through support from various partners such as the European Union-funded Southern African Migration Management (SAMM) project, Irish Government, The United Kingdom’s Foreign, and the Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), helped 397 stranded Malawian’s migrants to return home from Zimbabwe.

Between March and July 2021, IOM assisted 273 Malawian migrants with voluntary return assistance to their country of origin, in incremented groups, many of whom were stranded at the Beitbridge border point of entry, while attempting to reach South Africa. “The increasing number of stranded Malawian migrants in Zimbabwe en-route to South Africa depicts the current dynamics of human mobility in the context of the pandemic and a sustainable approach needs to be put in place to address the mobility patterns and the associated protection issues” says, Mario Lito Malanca, Chief of Mission, IOM Zimbabwe.

“Life was becoming challenging financially in Malawi due to lack of income, so I wanted to follow my husband who is already in South Africa, but I was stopped by the police in Zimbabwe and remained under their custody for three months, before IOM helped me come back to Malawi”, said 25-year-old Asiyatu Jafali, from Mwanyama village, who is one of the women of the recent assisted groups.

IOM Zimbabwe provides the returnees awaiting travel with a range of services which include pre-travel health assessments, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID-19 tests, meal allowances, baby essentials packages where there are infants, sanitary wear and transportation. On arrival in Malawi, IOM Malawi provides returnees with psychosocial support through counselling; transport to their final destinations, PPE and in some cases, vulnerability assessments are done depending on availability of funds for reintegration assistance.

“I tried leaving my village of Kadzati in Malawi, to go to South Africa to find a job and support my family better, but since I had no proper documents, I was stopped in Zimbabwe and kept for 60 days”, said 27-year-old Mofati, one of the men assisted from the same latest group of returnees. “Now that IOM helped me return home, I would rather stay and look into opening my own business selling livestock”, he continued.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably affected many people livelihood all across the world, leading to an increasing number of persons opting to migrate in search of better opportunities, and Southern Africa is no exception”, said Charles Kwenin, IOM Regional Director for Southern Africa. “IOM remains committed to helping Governments in alleviating

the many burdens faced by vulnerable migrants, through various humanitarian services, including assisted voluntary returns, thanks to the support from our donors”.

For more information, please contact Abibo Ngandu, IOM Regional Communication Officer, Fadzai Nyamande-Pangeti, IOM Zimbabwe Communication Officer, and Jacqueline Mpeni, IOM Malawi Communication Officer