MSF, Doctors Without Borders, International Migrants Day

8 things everyone should know about the harsh journeys that migrants undertake to South Africa

In 2019, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), in partnership with the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of the Witwatersrand surveyed 1,375 people on the move in Beitbridge, Zimbabwe and Musina, South Africa, to understand the health challenges that migrants face. The insights presented below are disturbingly grim and present a picture of extreme lack of access to healthcare. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made this more challenging.

  1. No English, no healthcare! 28% of migrants had experienced a health problem in Musina, but of them 61% did not look for medical assistance. In the case of mainly French-speaking Burundians, 82% did not report for healthcare, citing language issues as the main reason.

  2. Detention is hell. Once detained, 22% were asked for a bribe from police officers, and less than half were offered legal aid. 1 in 5 males experienced violence at the hands of arresting police officers and more than half were not allowed to communicate with their families at any point.

  3. 10% of 238 migrants interviewed by MSF in Beitbridge were orphans

  4. Detention is a fact of life. 25% of interviewees had spent more than three and a half years incarcerated before being deported.

  5. Police stations double as prisons but offer little access to health services, unlike prisons. Across all facility types, 26% of migrants detained had been tested for HIV and 9.4% for TB, but in police stations it was only 7.5% and 1.7% respectively. 

  6. Asylum seekers looking to renew permits are getting stuck in Musina for a year and 4 months on average.

  7. Sexual violence and Lindela Repatriation Facility go together. At Lindela, 8.3% reported they had had sex in exchange for money or other goods.

  8. Half of all Zimbabweans interviewed experienced some form of discrimination in South Africa. Most of them felt unsafe in Johannesburg.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Migrants testimonies
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