‘Southern-bound migrants matter too’


Prosper Ndlovu


MIGRANTS to Southern Africa remain exposed to abuse and victimisation, which requires concrete policy responses and coordinated interventions by regional stakeholders and governments, experts have said.

While migration through North Africa has received much attention recently, many migrants face threats and challenges en-route to the south with little international concern, research consultants from ENACT Africa, Ciara Aucoin and Edwin Hlase, say.

ENACT Africa is an organisation that deals with human security by providing research insight, expert policy advice and capacity building. The duo argues that south-bound migration issues have not received adequate research and global attention they deserve and challenge policy makers to be sincerely interested in the fate of African migrants and trafficked persons, beyond the impact of their arrival.

“More attention is needed on southern migration, particularly to expose abuse and victimisation and improve policy responses to the issue. Investigative reporting can and should play a key role in this process, particularly in reporting that exposes truthful accounts of migrants’ and victims’ experiences,” say Aucoin and Hlase.

According to ENACT Africa, the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe has placed Africa-to-Europe migration in the global spotlight in a way that is unprecedented. Since the 2013 Lampedusa migrant boat disaster, estimates show that more than 15 000 migrant deaths have been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea.

As a result, Aucoin and Hlase note that media and policy makers have been paying closer attention to the abuse and victimisation of migrants in the North African region.

However, the two researchers state that migration of Africans moving within the continent – particularly from the Horn of Africa towards Southern Africa, is an important matter too, which has unfortunately and is comparatively understudied.

“Perhaps because relatively fewer people move southwards, the migrant abuses, deaths and incidents of human trafficking associated with this route also receive far less emphasis in continental and international policy debates,” they say.

South Africa is one of the most popular destination countries for African migrants and refugees moving southwards, primarily because of her economic opportunities and relatively stable political climate. Aucoin and Hlase further blame “legal loopholes and government corruption,” within the bloc, which they say has made it easier for illegal immigrants to cross its borders.

Most African migrants to South Africa come from neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Malawi.

According to ENACT Africa, only 7,3% of migration is estimated to come from countries outside of the SADC with the longest journeys being those coming from the Horn of Africa.

In 2017, the research organisation estimates that between 13 000 to 14 000 Ethiopian and Somali migrants and refugees travelled through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe to South Africa.

“Smugglers play a key role in the movement of migrants into South Africa,” says Aucoin and Hlase. Citing a report by the regional Mixed Migration Secretariat published in March last year, the duo notes that 97% percent of Ethiopians and Somalis interviewed in South Africa between 2014 and 2016 used smugglers to facilitate their journeys. The price for this service ranged from US$2 500 to US$5 000, they say. ENACT Africa contends that some migrants do not survive the journey. Its media monitoring research looking at Southern Africa in 2016 and 2017 revealed that the route towards the south can be deadly.

In June 2016, for instance, the organisation says lack of airflow in a truck carrying more than 100 Ethiopian migrants resulted in the deaths of 19 migrants in Zambia. Similarly, in December 2017, it reports that bodies of 13 Somali migrants  – believed to have suffocated in a container truck – were found dumped in a bush in Mozambique. The media monitoring research further noted there was a high volume of human trafficking incidents in South Africa in recent years with figures indicating 58 in just 2016 and 2017 alone.

“Nearly half of these incidents involved individuals from 10 other African countries, meaning that international as well as domestic trafficking is prevalent in South Africa. The form of work or industry most commonly mentioned alongside trafficking in South African news reports is prostitution and sex work, followed by labour such as unpaid work in mines,” says Aucoin an




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