About IOM in Southern Africa
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is a dynamic and growing inter-governmental organization, with 146 member states, committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society.
Established in 1951 and now active in over 440 field locations worldwide, IOM works with partners, government and civil society to:
- Assist in meeting the operational challenges of migration and mobility
- Advance understanding of migration issues
- Encourage social and economic development through migration; and
- Uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants and mobile populationsIOM’s regional office for Southern Africa is in South Africa and caters to IOM activities in the entire SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) region. IOM also has offices in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
IOM member states in the region include: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Republic of Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Mozambique holds observer status and IOM has signed a cooperation agreement with the Government of Mozambique.
IOM’s Mission in Southern Africa
IOM believes that migration is a potential catalyst for development and economic growth in Southern Africa and can play a key role in helping countries realize the Millennium Development Goals, but the region also faces a number of migration challenges including increased irregular migration, the emergence of a brain drain of skilled professionals, the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on migrant communities, and population displacement as the result of conflicts, natural disasters, and economic crises.
In order to harness the positive benefits of migration and reduce its negative impacts, IOM’s Regional Office for Southern Africa and its country offices, are assisting and raising the capacities of governments to effectively manage migration in the region.
IOM’s Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) regularly brings government across the region to together to discuss migration issues of common concern and reach shared solutions, and the organization’s Technical Cooperation on Migration Management Programme offers governments technical, intellectual and strategic tools to help them effectively manage migration and reduce irregular migration.
IOM is increasingly working on migration and development issues in the Southern Africa region, including efforts to mobilize diaspora communities to contribute to the development of their home countries in terms of remittances and skill transfers, and is also embarking on projects to mitigate the impact of health worker migration out of the region.
Human trafficking is being addressed through the Southern African Counter Trafficking Assistance Programme, which has a strong presence in all country offices. And migrant health needs are being addressed through IOM’s Partnership on HIV and Mobility in Southern Africa, which aims to reduce the incidence of HIV and impact of AIDS among migrants and their families.
Emergency and humanitarian assistance to migrants and displaced people is a cornerstone service for IOM in the region, and in 2007 the organization has assisted people displaced by floods in Mozambique and Angola. IOM also provides humanitarian assistance to displaced groups in Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwean returnees at the Beitbridge border post.
Migration in Southern Africa
Migration is considered one of the defining global issues of the early twenty-first century, with more and more people on the move today than at any other point in history. There are now about 192 million people living outside their place of birth, which is about three per cent of the world's population. This means that roughly one of every thirty-five persons in the world is a migrant.
Southern Africa has a long history of cross-border migration, particularly for employment purposes - both organised (particularly migrants from the region working in the mining and manufacturing sectors of South Africa) and informal labour migration (such as commercial farm workers, traders and domestic workers). Abundant labour in bordering countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland have been a source of labour migration to South Africa for almost a century, based mainly on income disparities and the persistence of poverty.
Today, although the characteristics and mechanisms that typified labour migration in colonial Southern Africa still remain, there has also been a shift in the nature of migration as a result of the end of apartheid in South Africa, persistent economic disparities and humanitarian crises in the region.
With the end of apartheid, the volume of migration into South Africa has expanded dramatically, as new opportunities and reasons for migration across borders emerged, with migrants from neighbouring countries as well as from further north seeing South Africa as a new place to trade, shop, seek essential services, work and seek asylum. The number of people crossing South Africa's borders in both directions has increased significantly since 1994.
However, dramatically increased cross-border movement is not confined to South Africa. Throughout the region, border posts are experiencing increased flows. One of the main reasons for increased commercial border traffic is the growth in cross-border formal and informal trade across southern Africa. Formal trade within the sub-continent has grown exponentially since 1994, with goods carried mainly by long-distance truckers. Informal cross-border trading has also expanded dramatically. Trading is highly gendered, with women playing a major role in the buying and selling of goods across international boundaries throughout the region.
In recent years, the Southern African region has seen a noticeable increase in irregular migration, with challenges such as xenophobia, human smuggling and human trafficking being of particular concern.
Several regional and national conflicts have led to high numbers of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region. Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania shelter numerous refugees who are victims of the conflict in the DRC and the Great Lakes region. The recent economic and political events in Zimbabwe have also triggered massive IDPs, as well as cross-border flows of migrants.
The region is also experiencing extra-regional population flows, with a growing number of skilled and professional people seeking well-paying jobs in the developed world. Migration of health workers, in particular, has become a cause of concern for many countries in the region because of the negative impact this has on health systems, which are already under-resourced and experiencing considerable strain as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis.