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Category Archives: Mixed Migration

Human Trafficking: Prevalent in Public Discussions But Not in the Courts


South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services John Jeffery has acknowledged the general low level of prosecution for the crime of trafficking in persons globally, saying in South Africa such cases were usually anecdotal and existed mainly in public discussions, including on social media.

This pointed to the need for improvement in law enforcement and prosecution, he said.

Echoing the same sentiment was Vincent Ratshibvuma, a judge based in Mpumalanga province who said while there was talk of human trafficking being widely prevalence in the province, very few cases were brought to the courts. This was despite Mpumalanga’s proximity to the border with Mozambique and Eswatini.

“That is why I made a case for the NPA (the National Prosecuting Authority) to be trained in such cases since they are the ones who bring cases to court,” he said.

Mr Jeffery and Judge Ratshibvuma were speaking at a colloquium of judicial officers jointly organized by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI). The three-day gathering was held in Johannesburg and meant to familiarize magistrates with the intricacies of trafficking in persons and migrants smuggling.

South Africa is a preferred country of destination for many types of migrants, including smuggled migrants, with the trafficking of persons believed to be rife.

Mr Jeffery described trafficking in persons as a crime that does not stop at national borders and “that’s why cooperation is important.”

Judge Ratshibvuma noted that all of South Africa’s neighbours had signed the Trafficking Protocol. “Unless you have the cooperation of your neighbours fighting trafficking in persons is not going to work,” he said.

UNODC Southern Africa Regional Jane Marie Ongolo said the organization was involved in the compilation of a Southern African Regional Case Digest to assist with the prosecution of cases. “We realized that, sadly, the highest percentage of crimes in the region relate to trafficking for sexual exploitation. And mostly involves minors,” she said.

UNODC was also cooperating with the South African Police Service to roll out of training for law enforcement officials. The aim was to close the identified gap in evidence gathering and follow-up.

Teresa Horne, a judicial trainer with SAJEI, elaborated on the trend towards the growing use of ordinary residents and hotels as brothels.

According to Ms Ongolo, Africans continue to move across the continent in search of economic opportunities, policymakers need to work at making migration safe, regular and a force that can be harnessed for development, both in countries of origin and destination.

Contrary to perceptions that many Africans are making their way to Europe, the vast majority of those thinking about migrating have no interest in leaving the continent and have no intention of moving permanently.

“An argument can be made that migration in etched in Africans’ DNA, that Africans have and will always move within and across the continent, and that they are not about to stop,” Ms Ongolo said.

About the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) project

The judicial colloquium was organized under the SAMM project which is funded by the European Union and is a collaboration of four UN agencies: UNODC, ILO, IOM and UNHCR, under the one-UN model. The overall objective is to improve migration management in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region.

By Wilson Johwa


Iconic School Hosts World Day Against Trafficking Event in SA

A popular rural school in South Africa’s Limpopo province hosted this year’s main commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons jointly organized by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, and the United National Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Mphaphuli Secondary School, an iconic school in Thohoyandou, was established in the 1920s and has grown exponentially, largely due to the support given by the community. Among its former students is President Cyril Ramaphosa and renowned boxer Phillip N’dou.

In commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the school’s 1,500 learners interacted with dignitaries, including the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola, who commissioned a computer centre with 10 computers and furniture sourced through UNODC.

The event, held under the global theme of the day “use and abuse of technology”, was meant to emphasize that technology has become both an enabler of trafficking and also a possible tool to fight such crimes.

The crime of human trafficking has received a major boost since the onset of the internet. Since then, among traffickers’ most preferred ways of finding victims is posting fake job offers online, promising work opportunities, often in far off lands. Such recruitment and coercion often occur through targeting on social media.

Thus, the computers provided to Mphaphuli Secondary School were meant to support students to achieve computer literacy and also for them to learn how to safely navigate cyber space.

Mr Ronald Lamola said online connectivity was among the manifestation of globalization which presented both opportunities and dangers – including human trafficking. The internet, he emphasized, allowed people to interact easily and in real time, on social media such as WhatsApp.

Mr Lamola also said it was strategic that the commemoration was taking place at Mphaphuli Secondary School, situated not far from the country’s busiest land border crossing at Beitbridge, a factor that increased the risk of trafficking.

UNODC Regional Representative Ms Jane Marie Ongolo implored the learners to always navigate the internet safely, including refraining from accepting friend requests from strangers and not falling for offers that appear too good to be true.

Sarah Rammbuda, the mayor of Thulamela – a municipality in the area – said while learners were at risk of falling risk to trafficking and “as leaders we have a duty to guide them.”

Earlier in the day, both Mr Lamola and Dr Ongolo also spoke on the dangers of human trafficking in an interaction with students at the University of Venda (Univen), located a stone’s throw from Mphaphuli Secondary School. It was as a student at Univen that Mr Lamola served as president of the Student Representative Council and chairperson of the South African Students Congress in Limpopo.

Dr Ongolo said anyone can become a victim. “Traffickers are now using the internet to lure those they want to traffic. This place is not that far from the border, so we need to be careful about human trafficking.”

Turning to drug abuse, among UNODC’s areas of focus, Dr Ongolo urged the university to work at being the site of a proposed e-learning tool that would the community to learn about the dangers of drugs abuse. She said discussions were underway to explore other possible areas of cooperation between UNODC, Univen and departments under the Ministry of Justice.

About the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) project

The commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking at Mphaphuli Secondary School was organized under the SAMM project which is funded by the European Union and is a collaboration between four UN agencies: UNODC, ILO, IOM and UNHCR, under the one-UN model. The overall objective is to improve migration management in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region.

Story by Wilson Johwa


Protecting victims of Trafficking in Persons in South Africa “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”

Pretoria, South Africa – 10 September 2021 – UNODC, under the framework of the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) Project, and in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, belatedly marked the 2021 World Day against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) on the 10 September 2021, by donating Personal Protective Equipment to various shelters for Victims of Trafficking in Persons and Gender-Based Violence in South Africa, in order to ensure that Victims of Trafficking in Persons and staff in the respective shelters are protected from the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 World Day Against TIP, Global theme “Victims’ Voices, Lead the Way” puts victims of human trafficking at the Centre of the campaign and highlights the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking.

A majority of shelters for victims of trafficking in persons in South Africa and across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are not sufficiently equipped to adequately provide protection and support to both victims of trafficking in persons and gender-based violence victims, due to lack of infrastructure and scarcity of resources. This challenge has been compounded by the the COVID-19.  However, civil society organizations have continued to play a key role in ensuring that the shelters remain operational, and their doors stay open.

The handover ceremony was attended by Government representatives led by the Deputy Minister of Justice Hon. John Jeffery and a lead prosecutor on TIP from the National Prosecuting Agency,  representatives of six shelters[i] and representative of the European Union delegation in South Africa led by the Head of Development Cooperation, Mr. Bernard Rey.

Mr. Bernard Rey lauded the work that civil society organizations are undertaking in caring of persons who have been through traumatic experiences. He noted that  it was important that the victims of these heinous crimes of Trafficking in Persons do not lose their voices and thanked the organizations for assisting the victims regain their voices.

“Many practitioners argue we should move away from highlight that these people are not passive and disempowered but are strong and empowered. In the same vein, I want to end by adapting the theme of this year’s World Day Against Human Trafficking and say “Survivors Voices lead the way”

Mr. Bernard Rey

Head of Development Cooperation

EU Delegation to South Africa.

The Honorable Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. John Jeffery noted the gravity of Trafficking in persons but also highlighted the work that the Government of South African is undertaking, to curb the crime and specifically, under his docket. Hon. Jaffery’s observed that from the data received and further evidenced from victims rescued, females are most likely to be trafficked. Females contribute to 90% and above of suspected and confirmed victims. He spoke of also compounded challenges, where ` In many sex trafficking cases, the victims have substance abuse disorders, very often as a result of the actions of the trafficker, and thanked civil society for playing a key role in protecting vicitms in South Africa.

Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Regional Representative, reaffirmed UNODCs support and commitment to working with both government and civil society in addressing Trafficking in Persons and in protecting victims.

The Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM, 2020-2023) project is a model of a ONE-UN approach collaborative effort between 4 UN development and humanitarian agencies: the ILO, the IOM, UNODC and UNHCR, under the European Union Regional Indicative Programme (11th EDF RIP). The overall objective of the SAMM programme is to improve migration management in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region.












[i]  The participants represented persons from the following shelters:  Mercy House, Mali Martin Polokegong Centre, Grace Help Centre, AMCARE Hannan House, Re-Bafenyi Shelter, Carrol Shaw


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



As the Refugee Convention turns 70, the plight of millions of Africans highlights the challenges ahead

Today, 85% of the world’s refugees live in developing or the least developed countries. Patterns of displacement continue to evolve, driven by the interrelation of extreme poverty, the climate crisis and conflict. Lasting solutions are hard to find, making the work of the UN Refugee Agency even more pressing and complex.

Valentin Tapsoba is the UNHCR’s regional director for southern Africa.

Today, 28 July 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, marks the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the international legislation that is the cornerstone of our mandate.

Seventy years ago, the agency began the work it continues today, to protect the lives and rights of refugees.

Asylum is a fundamental human right. The 1951 convention came into being in order to safeguard that right, for everyone, everywhere. In the context of continuing wars, conflict and persecution, and record levels of displacement, the convention and everything it stands for remain as relevant today as 70 years ago. Perhaps even more so, as the number of people forced to flee worldwide continues to grow year on year.

Almost since the ink dried, the 1951 convention has protected people forced to flee on almost every continent. In Africa, decolonisation in the 1960s produced the first of the continent’s numerous refugee crises.

Political domination and upheavals that followed coups and attempted coups in some of the newly independent African states also caused flight, often across borders.

The 1951 Refugee Convention served as the basis for the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Refugee Convention putting in place refugee jurisprudence and practice to develop in a predictable and asylum-friendly manner. In doing so, the OAU convention cemented in Africa the international refugee framework considered the most generous and flexible international agreement on refugee protection. Its most celebrated feature is the expanded refugee definition.

Here in South Africa, even before majority rule was achieved in 1994, the UN Refugee Agency had already established its presence in the country. Our first office in Johannesburg opened in 1991. It was the first UN office to be reopened in the country.

With the agency’s help, about 30,000 political exiles who fled apartheid rule were able to return home.

Nelson Mandela was closely involved with the agency, before and after he took office. When the agency first started negotiating with the apartheid minority government for the repatriation of South African refugees, Mandela personally gave his blessing for these negotiations to continue.

The UN Refugee Agency also helped South Africa to draft the 1998 Refugees Act, and with the voluntary repatriation of Mozambican refugees in the 1990s.

Today, it assists more than 250,000 refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa and about 1.1 million in southern Africa.

In Mozambique, the agency was instrumental in facilitating the return of 1.7 million people in the early 1990s, with the support of the international community.

It was instrumental in helping the returning refugees reintegrate once they reached home, distributing food, providing seeds, tools, shelter materials and rebuilding roads, schools, health centres and boreholes.

To the north in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the impact of two successive wars between 1996 and 2003 sent shockwaves across half of Africa.

Millions of people were forced to flee to safety in neighbouring countries. Although a peace agreement was signed in 2002, violence has continued in many regions of the country, especially in the east.

Today, there are about 943,000 refugees and asylum seekers from the DRC hosted across the continent.

The operational environment in the DRC is extremely difficult. The impact of conflict continues to make humanitarian access extremely difficult in certain areas.

Despite these difficulties, the UN Refugee Agency has stayed and delivered, providing international protection and solutions including voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement.

To reduce dependency on humanitarian aid alone, the agency is promoting the inclusion of refugees in national systems. Through its partners, it is also strengthening self-reliance through education, skills training and support for livelihood opportunities for both refugee and host communities.

On 17 December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly affirmed the Global Compact on Refugees, a framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility sharing, recognising that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be achieved without consistent international cooperation and support.

Today, 85% of the world’s refugees live in developing or the least developed countries. Patterns of displacement continue to evolve, driven by the interrelation of extreme poverty, the climate crisis and conflict. Lasting solutions are hard to find, making the work of the UN Refugee Agency even more pressing and complex.

No matter the challenges, the agency continues to champion the rights and potential of people forced to flee, making a difference to millions of lives, one refugee at a time. Behind everything we do to protect people forced to flee is the 1951 Refugee Convention, our backbone and our mandate. DM