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: mmalanca@iom.int