The Southern Africa region has increasingly seen mixed movements coming from the East and Horn of Africa and from the Great Lakes Region. Large mixed migratory groups, pushed by war, lack of protection, economic disparity or hope for better livelihood opportunities, have been moving south, transferring through Kenya and/or Tanzania towards Southern Africa. Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe are a few of the countries frequently being used as transit and rest-stops, with the majority of individuals on the move aiming for South Africa. An estimated 20,000 Ethiopian and Somali migrants take this route every year. Many do not manage to reach South Africa, and all suffer great hardship including elements such as starvation and abandonment, physical and sexual abuses, exploitation, lengthy detentions and even death (usually by drowning or suffocation in truck containers). When migrants “contract” smugglers to assist them to enter Southern Africa, they are often unaware of the dangers and risks involved.

Additionally, Internal and cross border trafficking continue to pose significant challenges to government and migrants in the region. Almost all countries in the region remain source, transit or destination countries or a combination thereof for victims of trafficking. Internal trafficking occurs mainly for purposes of domestic labour and sexual exploitation, while cross-border trafficking is primarily for purposes of forced labour, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation.

IOM provides protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants who have been stranded, trafficked, exploited and exposed to other types of risk. Capacity building of national and regional actors is a major component of IOM’s work on migrant assistance. IOM also works with national governments and regional institutions to raise awareness among vulnerable populations; develop evidence-based migration policies and practices; and protect the rights of migrants based on international best practices.

The outcome of this work is for governments to demonstrate a sustainable commitment to protecting vulnerable migrants and for migrants to have greater confidence in the migrant protection systems in the region.

Regional project: Pilot action on voluntary return and sustainable, community-based reintegration

  • The overall objective is to contribute to the development of sustainable voluntary return and community-based reintegration approaches from South Africa to Mozambique and Malawi.
  • The specific objectives are: to support targeted countries of origin, transit and destination to enhance national structures and capacities to facilitate a dignified and sustainable return and reintegration process; to support national authorities of targeted countries in the provision of dignified voluntary return assistance to stranded and vulnerable migrants; to support targeted countries to enhance the sustainability of returnees’ economic, social and psychosocial reintegration through tailored individual and community-level assistance.