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Stranded Malawian Migrants Return Home from South Africa

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Migrants returning home to Malawi from South Africa. © IOM

Pretoria – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in partnership with the Consulate of the Republic of Malawi in South Africa this week (09/09) facilitated a second voluntary return flight for stranded Malawian migrants that has now assisted 111 individuals. An earlier flight left on 27 August.

Both charters from South Africa to Malawi for people affected by COVID-19 related mobility restrictions were enabled by funding from the European Union (EU).

“This group of Malawians have been in South Africa for various reasons, but they have all faced the tremendous socio-economic impact of COVID-19 modalities”, said H.E. Gloria Bamusi, High Commissioner of the Embassy of the Republic of Malawi in South Africa.

“It was their strong wish to return home, and we are appreciative to IOM for helping facilitate this movement, and thus alleviating the stress they endured throughout the ongoing pandemic.”

In March 2020, the Government of the Republic of South Africa announced a nationwide lockdown in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The related national and international restrictions resulted in a cascade of socio-economic and humanitarian challenges, further exposing national and non-national vulnerable groups to social difficulties.

As reported by the Government, thousands of people have lost their jobs since the beginning of the lockdown effecting both the formal and informal sectors, the latter of which employs many migrants.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, IOM and our partners have provided voluntary return support to approximately 400 nationals from various countries in the region. This is a continuation of our support to vulnerable migrants that decide they would be better off returning home,” said Ms. Lily Sanya, Chief of Mission of IOM in South Africa.

“It has been a challenge to consistently secure resources to sustain this support, and we are therefore thankful to the European Union and its funding through the AVRR’s Pilot Action on Voluntary Return and Sustainable, Community-based Reintegration project, for making the current initiative possible”.

Some of this week’s beneficiaries were transported from Durban and Cape Town to Johannesburg to take a charter flight, after undergoing medical screening. They were also provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers. UNICEF South Africa also provided hygiene items for the women and girls of the traveling group.

“I have been in South Africa for three years, and I had a job that did not pay much but allowed me to live decently and send money home to my family as well,” said a 45-year-old man, carrying his luggage toward the airport entrance.

“However, since the pandemic, I lost my job and source of income and support to my family. It’s been too tough, so I decided to go back home and figure things out with the people I have missed all this time."

The assisted migrants traveled to Lilongwe, Malawi on two chartered flights. Fifty-six people travelled on 27 August, and 55 this week. They were received in Malawi by the IOM team, and provided further assistance to rejoin their respective communities.

Thanks to the funding from the European Union, IOM will continue to support the voluntary return of stranded Malawian, Zimbabwean, Zambian as well as Mozambican nationals, from South Africa to their respective home countries.

For more information, please contact Maria Moreriane, Policy Liaison and Reporting Officer, at mmoreriane@iom.int

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