South Africa + 1 more

SA deports 7 000 Zimbabweans monthly

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HARARE - More than 314 000 illegal Zimbabwean migrants were assisted at the Beitbridge reception centre run by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) between 2006 and 2009 after being deported from South Africa.

This works out to an average of 7 300 individuals deported from South Africa every month for the 43 months since the inception of the facility.

IOM also revealed last week that another 57 000 Zimbabwean migrants have been assisted between June 2008 and June last year at a similar centre it operates at the Plumtree border with Botswana.

The figures reveal the stark reality of a nation in motion - thousands of people leaving Zimbabwe daily in search of economic refuge in neighbouring countries.

The exodus has not relented despite the formation of a government of national unity by the country's three main political parties 11 months ago.

The IOM said the change in South African government policy allowing for visa-free entry into the country resulting in an end to forced returns has however reduced the number of deportations, forcing the organisation to shift focus on assistance at Beitbridge to information-dissemination, developing options for the sustainable voluntary return of vulnerable migrants from South Africa and assisting unaccompanied minors.

More than three million Zimbabweans have left the country for neighbouring and Western countries since 2000 and most of them are based in South Africa and Botswana.

Most of the migrants have no proper documentation and are often deported back to Zimbabwe.

The Netherlands government came to the aid of IOM last week when it unveiled new US$1.5 million funding to support the organisation's humanitarian activities in Zimbabwe for a year.

The new funding would support activities carried out at the Beitbridge and Plumtree reception and support centres where IOM offers returned migrants with basic health care and referrals, information on safe migration and the risks of HIV/AIDS as well as meals and transportation assistance to final destinations home.

The funds would also support mobile clinics providing free medical services and access to essential drugs in urban and peri-urban settlements as well as the rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructure in Zimbabwe which was badly hit by cholera in 2008. "This new funding from the Dutch government will go a long way to improving the quality of life for many people in need of assistance," said IOM chief of mission in Zimbabwe, Marcelo Pisani.