IOM Southern Africa Covid 19 Response - Situation Report 2 (22 May - 4 June 2020)
Reported COVID-19 cases in Southern Africa continue to increase, though at a relatively stable pace. Countries of the region have augmented their public health responses and are maintaining stringent mobility restrictions. As of 4 June, over 44,781 cases and more than 909 deaths have been reported in the region.
IOM has noted reports of stigma and discrimination towards migrants in locations of origin, transit and destination upon their return, due to fears around COVID-19 transmission, which may lead to further exclusion from or unwillingness to access health and other essential services. Equally concerning is the increase in requests from governments for assistance to stranded and vulnerable migrants abroad, both in return and the provision of basic needs. Countries in the region have implemented border and travel restrictions. The majority of borders have been closed for the movement of people, with few exceptions, including border openings for the return of foreign citizens and repatriation of own nationals.
Many migrants have lost their jobs in the region and are particularly vulnerable to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. The repercussions of the aforementioned on remittances within the region may also have far-reaching consequences. During the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM expect a slowing down of remittance transfers at least in the immediate short term. This is because, the COVID-19 pandemic is global affecting both sending and receiving (EU, Middle East, North America, intra Africa) countries simultaneously as their labour markets gets impacted.
Based on the information collected by IOM from a range of data sources including national authorities, IOM missions, news media outlets, diaspora associations and other entities, over 63,000 migrants from SADC Member States returned to their country of origin since March 2020, most of them being self-returnees, with Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe being the three countries with the highest numbers of returnees.
In Southern Africa, many migrants have become stranded in transit and destination countries, lacking the means to return or are unable to return as a result of mobility restrictions related to COVID-19; and many migrants left destitute as they have lost their means of support and are unable to meet their basic needs or evicted migrants who have lost access to safe shelter. Some of the destitute migrants do not necessarily wish to return to the country of origin mainly due to political / security concerns. They have no choice but to stay despite the destitute situation caused by COVID-19 effects. Furthermore, the high rate of HIV prevalence among the migrants in Southern Africa should be given a special attention. Some stranded / destitute migrants stopped taking ART as they cannot refill their medicine while others stopped taking medicine as they can no longer afford to have proper meals. Some migrants already passed away due to the hunger and repatriation of body to the country of origin is a challenge as the poor communities cannot afford the transport and other necessary logistic arrangement.
Protracted internal conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and north of Mozambique continue to generate internal displacement patterns which could further challenge the humanitarian response to COVID-19.
To address these challenges, IOM missions in the region are working with governments and partners to ensure that migrants, whether in regular or irregular situations, as well as returnees and forcibly displaced persons, are included in all aspects of COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts. IOM is also coordinating closely with governments on both immediate and longterm strategies for ensuring that travel remains safe, including through combined inputs from IOM’s border management and health teams. In Southern Africa, as migrants across the region are facing increasing pressure as a result of COVID-19, IOM has established a platform with ambassadors from SADC Member States and UN agencies to coordinate humanitarian assistance for migrants in distress, strengthen partnerships with the diaspora community, and establish a platform for fundraising for humanitarian needs of stranded migrants.