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Best Practices from Zimbabwe in Supporting Returned Migrants

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Strong collaboration between the authorities in Zimbabwe and South Africa has made it possible to recover the earnings of some migrants forcibly returned from South Africa.

Migrants returned to their countries of origin under such circumstances usually leave quite suddenly and those in employment rarely have the chance to collect their wages as a result.

The wider application of an intervention to assist them track their monies would provide vulnerable migrants and returnees with access to justice, which could be extended to victims of gender-based violence, among others.

This is among the lessons for countries in the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA), where many more migrants return, especially from the Middle East – sometimes having worked for weeks and even months without pay.

Other best practices were also explored during a cross regional knowledge exchange on migration support centres held in early November. In attendance were officials from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), partner agencies and government counterparts in Zimbabwe, and in the EHoA and Yemen.

The discussion focused on the Beitbridge Reception and Support Centre, located near the Zimbabwe-South Africa border. To date the centre has supported thousands Zimbabweans involuntarily returned from South Africa, with a range of services, including food, information and onward travel to their communities of origin.

Its successes struck a chord with migrant protection officers in the EHoA where IOM along with partner organizations support governments in the running of 12 similar centres – also known as migration response centres (MRCs) - and two in Yemen.

The MRCs are strategically located along the key routes (in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan), used by hundreds of migrants headed for the Middle East through Yemen, and to Europe. One route is popular with mainly Ethiopian and Somali migrants travelling to South Africa.

Among the successes achieved by the Beitbridge Reception and Support Centre is how its operations continued to involve many other stakeholders even after the government of Zimbabwe had taken over operations in 2015. This was nine years after its establishment in response to multiple and complex migration challenges in the country.

Teklewoine Kassaye from IOM Zimbabwe said the existence of multiple stakeholders “facilitates seamless processing and efficient provision of appropriate services to migrants.”

Similarly, a Cross Border Migration Management Stakeholders Forum was established with South Africa in 2012 and is still running. Through it, the centre has enabled inter-country dialogue on critical issues, contributing to the improved treatment of migrants.

Innovations at the facility also include a Child Centre, run by social workers with assistance from partners such as Save the Children, and dedicated towards the welfare of unaccompanied migrant children.

Many more children are on the move in the Horn of Africa, where they make up about a fifth of migrants on the ‘Eastern Migration Route’ to the Middle East.

A National Referral Mechanism was developed in Zimbabwe to establish standard operating procedures in the handling and protection of different categories of migrants in vulnerable situations.

The Beitbridge Reception and Support Centre also played a central role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, with assistance from Médecins Sans Frontières. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe received 380,967 returning migrants through various points of entry and of these 315,000 were provided with reception support in Beitbridge.

For the EHoA and Yemen, strengthening MRC ownership and capacity through strategic partner involvement is a priority, explained Julia Hartlieb, Deputy Regional Coordinator of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (the EU-IOM Joint Initiative), which organized the knowledge exchange.

Ms Hartlieb added that partners in the EHoA region had “supported the exchange of experiences and good practices with migration support centres and partners elsewhere.”

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative

Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

For more information please contact: Laura Boucsein, email: lboucsein@iom.int and Wilson Johwa, email: wjohwa@iom.int,