Beginning in late 2019, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in partnership with the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), conducted over 1,375 detailed interviews with migrants and asylum-seekers across Beitbridge and Musina, documenting the health challenges they faced. Participants included:
- Zimbabwean deportees coming through Beitbridge Reception,
- migrants and asylum seekers of several nationalities staying in Musina,
- Malawians using Beitbridge as a waiting area,
- the cross-border population living in rural Beitbridge, and
- different groups heading to South Africa via Beitbridge crossing points.
The results of that survey show that the significant waiting period for asylum-seeker application outcomes often exacerbates health challenges that migrants experience. While the report does not point to an acute health crisis at the border, it outlines the risks of the current process, which often requires migrants and asylum-seekers to travel from the rest of the country to Musina, as their office of first application, in order to renew their permits.
Many of those whose papers expire before they are able to renew them must endure inhumane and often illegal conditions of arrest and detention prior to deportation, heightening the risks of contagion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implications of the report – beyond addressing medical needs – extend to the need for a more considered approach to migration policy, one that acknowledges the reality of migration while promoting wider public health imperatives. MSF and ACMS, in collaboration with the Migration & Coronavirus in Southern Africa Coordination Group (MiCoSA), will be hosting a discussion on the project findings and their implications, including what this may mean in the context of Covid-19. Discussants include:
- Vinayak Bhardwaj, Regional Migration Referent – Southern Africa, Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
- Faith Ngari, Future Families, Musina
- Dostin Lakika (PhD), field researcher & ACMS graduate
- Aurelie Ponthieu, International Migration Coordinator, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Brussels
Facilitator: Jo Vearey, ACMS, Wits
Date: Wednesday 17th March
Time: 1 – 2.30pm SAST