SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Press Review July 2020



Covid-19 moves refugees and asylum seekers to the bottom of priorities.

Maverick Citizen - 28 July 2020

In the past, South Africa was well respected for its strong rights-based legislation for refugees as well as for asylum seekers. This generosity has vanished due to the policies that seem to be parallel from the constitution. Currently, asylum seekers and refugees are facing tough moments that are arising from the Refugee Amendment Act as well as from the stiff pressure that was brought by Corona Virus pandemic. This scenario is being exacerbated by application processing backlogs and massive corruption. The backlog reflected in the auditor-general’s review of Home Affairs’ performance in February 2020 is 40 326 asylum seeker applications before the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs and around 147 794 cases that are before the Refugee Appeals Authority and the backlogs will take years to clear even in the absence of new cases. These delays are affecting the rights of asylum seekers to attain proper healthcare, education, receiving grants and other social services, and job security. Some are facing arrest, detention, harassment, and deportation.

Full report:


Zimbabweans who missed food assistance deadline are desperate.

GroundUp - 24 July 2020

The Covid-19 national lockdown has left many migrants struggling to get food. Approximately 3 300 Zimbabweans in South Africa have registered for a once-off food voucher from the International Organisation for Migration after the embassy of Zimbabwe put a call for its citizens to register through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Additionally there was a court ordered on 19 June that allowed asylum seekers and special permit holders from Zimbabwe, Angola and Lesotho to get Special Social Relief of Distress grants. However, in terms of the once off IOM food voucher, the Zimbabwean Conssul General Melody Chaurura announced that Zimbabweans who missed the submission deadline which was set on the 19 July to apply for food assistance cannot get an extension.

Full report:


Another country: UNHCR protest refugees still hold out for resettlement.

GroundUp- 21 July 2020

Proper shelter and the final destination for the refugees who once protested outside the  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in St George’s Mall in 2019 is not yet established. The refugees have managed to accommodate themselves in two camps in Cape Town namely Bellville and Kensington despite the fact that they have planned to leave South Africa due to xenophobic violence. UNHCR indicated that resettlement in another country is very unrealistic. While the majority said they want to be resettled, a small number of people in the camps have indicated other intentions: some wished to be repatriated, some to go back into South Africa communities, and others were opting to try neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe.

Full report:





Thousands of refugees and migrants suffer extreme rights abuses on journeys to Africa’s Mediterranean coast.

UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency - 29 July 2020

Thousands of refugees and migrants are perishing while others are facing extreme human rights abuses on irregular travels between West and East Africa and Africa’s Mediterranean Coast. ‘A new report released… by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) at the Danish Refugee Council, titled ‘On this journey, no one cares if you live or die’, details how most people taking these routes suffer or witness unspeakable brutality and inhumanity at the hands of smugglers, traffickers, militias and in some cases even State officials.’ 

Approximately 28 per cent of [the 1 750] deaths reported in 2018 and 2019 happened as people were attempting to cross the Sahara Desert. In 2020, at least 70 refugees and migrants are known to have died already, including at least 30 people [who] were killed at the hands of traffickers in Mizdah in late May. For many, their arrival in Libya is the final staging post on a journey characterized by horrific abuses including random killings, torture, forced labour and beatings. Women and girls, but also men and boys, are at high risk of rape and sexual and gender-based violence, particularly at checkpoints and border areas, and during desert crossings.

Full report:


Coronavirus Poses Added Risk to Refugees and Humanitarian Groups

Voice of Africa (VOA) News - 08 July 2020

“No country can fight the pandemic or manage migration alone. But together, we can contain the spread of the virus, buffer its impact on the most vulnerable and recover better for the benefit of all,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. Uganda is struggling to offer the much-needed assistance to approximately 3 000 Congolese refugees that migrated when the boarders were temporarily opened during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ugandan Health Ministry is conducting tests of refugees, has instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine… recorded 44 positive coronavirus tests of Congolese refugees at the border, and officials warned that they needed additional support to offer services to the new arrivals. The Ugandan minister for Relief, Disaster and Refugees is appealing for cooperation from the international community. Failure to receive the assistance, they may result in return the refugees to their country. The Covid-19 pandemic along with the lockdown measures that were put in place by so many nations across the globe are prohibiting the easy movement of humanitarian workers to reach the most vulnerable groups. Many boarders are closed, and this has resulted to the slowing or halting of international travel. Refugees in densely packed camps with best practice precautions to avoid contamination often not available, are particularly vulnerable.

Full report:


Hundreds of Refugees in Uganda Displaced After Food Riot.

Voice of Africa (VOA) News - 20 July 2020

Food crisis can trigger conflicts between individuals, groups of people or tribes. The United Nations refugee agency has made arrangements to move hundreds of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda to a safer location following violence that broke out over accusations of stolen food. The violence was sparked by an incident [on] July 13, in which youth from the Nuer community allegedly stole maize from the farm of the Kuku community in Palorinya, Obongi district, northern Uganda.  The situation escalated into violence, [t]hree boys aged 16, 17 and 18 whereas seven others were wounded, and some 280 shelters were set ablaze. 

Full report:


Will Africa’s Great Green Wall discourage migration to Europe? - 17 July 2020

By 2020, 60 million people from sub-Saharan Africa are expected to migrate because of desertification. The Great Green Wall is a $8bn project restoring degraded land. But will it encourage people to stay or earn the money to go? While donors hope the project will encourage would-be migrants to enjoy better conditions at home, some migration experts say such development policies might have the opposite effect. With a little more money in peoples’ pockets, migration becomes more tenable. The wall, advocates hope, will temper some of the push factors as well by making a job at home, if not fortune-making, at least reasonably bearable. At the very least, they say, the Great Green Wall seeks to combat climate change, and the wider effects of that – preventing conflict, starvation and drought – are beneficial worldwide.

Full report:





COVID-19 Threatens Tens of Thousands of Venezuelan Refugees in Brazil.

Voice of Africa (VOA) News - 25 July 2020

Across the entire world, Brazil is ranked as the second worst affected country as well as the epicentre of Covid-19 in Latin America. Approximately 345 000 refugees and asylum seekers, who are mostly from Venezuela, reside in Brazil. They fled their home country due to economic hardship and political oppression and found a safe haven in Brazil but now find themselves at high risk of becoming infected and even dying from COVID-19. The U.N. refugee agency is implementing measures to protect the thousands of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Brazil and the communities hosting them from the COVID-19 pandemic. Covid-19 has already claimed around 83 000 lives in the Brazil.

Full report:


Iraqi Refugees ‘Extremely Vulnerable' to COVID-19.

Voice of Africa (VOA) News - 13 July 2020

Approximately 1.3 million Iraqi refugees are residing in overcrowded and filthy displaced persons camps inside Iraq where they are expecting to start their lives on a new note. Doctors Without Borders have noted that this setup might put their lives on risk of Covid-19. Health officials have said people with other health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. According to the United Nations, 3 million Iraqis have fled Islamic State from 2014 until Iraq defeated the terrorist group about two years ago.

Full report:


UNHCR: Refugees Unlawful Detained Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic Must Be Released. 

Voice of Africa (VOA) News - 26 July 2020

Some countries are reportedly using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up refugees and asylum seekers for longer periods of time.  The U.N. agency says refugees are fleeing war and persecution. It says they are not criminals and should not be detained without due legal process. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is warning that the unlawful and arbitrary incarceration of refugees and asylum seekers is putting them and the general public at heightened risk of COVID-19. The U.N. refugee agency is calling for their urgent and immediate release. The UNHCR says unlawful detention of refugees is not restricted to countries in conflict, such as Libya.  It says it also is widely used as an administrative procedure in all regions — in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. The UNHCR urges governments to expand and implement community-based alternatives to detention, including other options for newly arriving refugees and asylum seekers.  

Full report:

For more information about Detention and Migration also see following link:


Photo by: Hope House Press - Leather Diary Studio 


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