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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