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Towards a more constructive analysis of forced migration : the case of Zimbabwean migrants in Zambia

par Aline Mandrilly
IEP Bordeaux - Master Politique et developpement en Afrique et dans les Pays du Sud 2008

Disponible en mode multipage

Aline Mandrilly

Sciences Po Bordeaux

Master 1 Science Politique

Spécialité Sociologie du politique et de l'action publique

Parcours politique et développement en Afrique et dans les Pays du Sud

Towards a more constructive analysis of forced migration :

The case of Zimbabwean migrants in Zambia

Sous la direction de M. D. Darbon

Avril 2008

I dedicate this essay to Pardon Nyasha, the first Zimbabwean I met.

He offered me a room when I was in need of a refuge, and a nice hair-cut.

This essay would have been meaningless if not for him.

The Revolution Will Eat Its Children (Anthem for Uncle Bob)

He's a leader, talks of freedom
He knows the power of the Big Idea
He's a dealer, he's a seeker
Of the power that comes from fear
He gave his life to the party machine
Holding on a secret dream
He knows better than anyone
'Power comes from the barrel of a gun
And he's rising up against them now
And he's rising up in country and town
Rising up against them now, rising up

Chorus :
The revolution has eaten its children
I see the river of dreams run dry
I'm so thankful I got to love you
You are the reason I survive

The promise of a better life for all
The promise of freedom from hunger and war
So many rose up to answer the call
And so many are no longer here at all
The hopes of yesterday drowning in shifting sands
'cause something strange is going on across the land
Preaching water but drinking wine
Power gets us every time
The more things change
The more they stay the same
And they're rising up against him now
And they're rising up from country to town
And they're rising up, rising up

Free them from this hunger,

Johnny Clegg

Song inspired by a famous speech made by Mugabe

«Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe!"

World Summit in Johannesburg, 2002



1 - 3




I. The regional impacts of the crisis in Zimbabwe: the example of Zambia

5 - 11

a. The Zimbabwe crisis: its origins and aspects, and the consequences for the region

5 - 6

b. The regional impacts of the crisis: a legal and political imbroglio

7 - 11


II. An important range of consequences : from negative to constructive impacts of Zimbabwean forced migrants

12 - 18

a. Impacts of Zimbabwean forced migrants in Zambia: negative consequences and benefits for the host country

12 - 16

b. Zimbabwean migrants' direct constructive impacts on Zimbabwe

17 - 18






20 - 21


DRC Democratic Republic of Congo

IMF International Monetary Fund

NGO Non Governmental Organization

SADC Southern African Development Community

UN United Nations

UNAIDS United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS

UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund

WHO World Health Organization

ZANU-PF Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front

ZIC Zambia Investment Centre


This essay is a continuity of a research I started last year on the Zimbabwe situation and its impacts. Indeed, last year, I participated in a research on the impacts of the displacement of Zimbabweans on the eradication of poverty in Malawi, during a four-month training in an NGO dealing with human rights. For this research, I got the opportunity to make interviews with people in contact with Zimbabwean refugees and I was able to have a better understanding of the Zimbabwean context of economic, social and political crisis, as well as the regional impact it may have.

I understood that it was not only Zimbabwe which was suffering from the crisis, but also the neighbouring countries which have to deal with a certain number of Zimbabwean migrants on their ground. Through this essay, I would like to deepen the issue of their regional impact, trying to highlight the positive aspects of forced migration, for the host country as well as the country of origin, beyond the negative impacts, which are often emphasized. This essay will contribute to a greater understanding of the implications arising from the forced migration of those affected by the economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe.

Indeed, forced migrations are embodied by emergency situations, but it seems necessary to replace them in a longer-term context, more global, in order to overcome an only pessimistic vision of forced migration. Migrations issues are generally dealt from a perspective of state fragilization, economic, social and political instability, local violence, sanitary crisis, as well as poverty catalyst for the host country but also for the country of origin (such as brain drain). The goal of this essay is to look beyond the negative aspects of forced migration, to highlight its positive aspects. The links between migration and economic development or social and political change can not be hidden. Benefits and drawbacks arise from forced migration for both the host country and the country of origin.

Beyond the evident negative consequences of forced migration, in which measures can Zimbabwean migrants have a positive role to play, as much in the host country as in the country of origin?

The first part of this essay will deal with the reality of the Zimbabwe crisis and its negative impacts on the neighbouring countries. In my second part, I will focus on the place and role of forced migration on the economic development of the host country as well as the country of origin. I decided to focus on Zambia, as this country has a special history, being a country rather politically secure, despite being in a region full of conflicts. However, Zambia, has been repeatedly affected by this regional instability, for it has received many millions of refugees, after every important conflict. Zambia has a generous policy towards refugees, as it offers local integration for refugees, as well as an help for a return in the country of origin. Yet, Zambia has a different approach towards Zimbabwean migrants, because they are not considered as refugees, but as economic migrants.

The Zambian government does not want to question this issue, as it will mean to recognize the crisis in Zimbabwe, and thus challenge the capacities of President Mugabe to rule. In South Africa, the government as almost the same position towards Zimbabwean migrants, which are deported massively, instead of being regularized. My hypothesis is built on the capacity of migrants to organize themselves to adapt to the host country, in order to create a certain kind of dynamics for their country of origin.

Between two and three millions of Zimbabweans are said to be in exile abroad. No official figure is showed by the concerned countries, neither by international organizations, but it should concern around 25% of the total population of Zimbabwe, estimated at around thirteen millions. This population of forced migrants can not be put aside when dealing with the process of rebuilding Zimbabwe, especially after the last elections, hold on the 29th March 2008.

The information I found come from different sources. I followed the evolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe for the past few months, focusing principally on the events around the elections. My main sources are from research publications on the issues of forced migration and refugees. I also focused on the information published by the concerned countries or international organizations working with refugees population (the French Embassies, Zimbabwean, Zambian and South African newspapers, UNHCR, UNICEF...), as well as legal document concerning migrants (the Zambian Constitution, ratified international texts...). These last documents enabled me to understand the policy of the Zambian government towards Zimbabwean migrants and the Mugabe regime, so as to identify the issue of dealing with them on the Zambian ground.

Other sources come from activist media, independent actors from the state, especially networks of Zimbabweans abroad who created Internet websites to communicate and present evidence on the situation in Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe Exiles Forum). Some support groups also exist in countries hosting Zimbabweans (Crisis for Zimbabwe Coalition, Save Zimbabwe Campaign) and are present in Zambia. Various NGOs in Zambia have direct or indirect links with Zimbabweans, as well as international institutes or foundations which conducted surveys on the issues of refugees (Refugees International, Overseas Development Institute...), and some of them accepted to answer my questions concerning Zimbabwean migrant in Zambia.


In dealing with issues such as migrants and refugees, it is all the more important to define the terms applied and chosen as it implies political choices which could lead, in the case of refugees, to consider migrants as legal or illegal on a territory, giving them different rights according to their status.

The main distinction used to separate voluntary migrants from non-voluntary migrants. The first ones are considered as «economic migrants», who voluntarily decide to leave and come back, whereas the latter concerns migrants who are forced to leave their country. However, this distinction seems obsolete as the reasons for migration are complex and take into account different aspects, such as political conflicts, economic crisis, and even ecologic crisis. Moreover, these two categories are also divided into sub-categories, such as «refugees», «internal displacees», «deported people», «illegal/undocumented immigrants», «asylum seekers» and other displaced people. As the notion of forced migration is more holistic and integrate all the terms pre-cited, this will be the word used to characterize the Zimbabwean migration, and the notion of forced migrants will characterize the Zimbabwean migrants. Forced migration is «a general term that refers to the movements of refugees and internally displaced people (those displaced by conflicts) as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects1(*)». The specific status of refugee implies certain rights, not granted to other categories of migrants. Those recognized as refugees are better off than other forced migrants because they have a clear legal status and are entitled to the protection of the UNHCR. The legal definition of a refugee, which is enshrined in the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines «a refugee as a person residing outside his or her country of nationality, who is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a political social group, or political opinion».

The term officially used by countries affected by the Zimbabwean exodus (neighbouring states to which Zimbabweans are fleeing) is «migration». South Africa, Zambia, and Botswana clearly want to avoid a confrontation with the Mugabe government, not addressing properly the issue of forced migration characterizing the Zimbabwean migration.

I. The regional impacts of the crisis in Zimbabwe: the example of Zambia

a. The Zimbabwe crisis: its origins and aspects, and the consequences for the region

For about ten years now, Zimbabwe is facing an economic crisis, exacerbated by social and political aspects. The economic crisis arose from two main causes : the military engagement in the Republic Democratic of Congo conflict, where President Mugabe decided to send over one-third of the Zimbabwean troops between 1999 and 2002. This cost around US$500 millions to the Zimbabwean government2(*). Meanwhile, the land reforms and agricultural policies undertaken by Mugabe had serious negative impacts on the economy. Until 2000, the white farmers owned most of the best lands, which enabled Zimbabwe to keep its food self-sufficiency, being, until 2000, the breadbasket of Africa, because of its abundant harvests. In 2000, Mugabe launched his land redistribution after demonstrations led by black Zimbabweans for a better access to lands for them. The farms of the white farmers are devastated by the armed branch of ZANU-PF, the ruling party of Mugabe; the Whites are expropriated and forced to flee; whereas the farms are redistributed to government members close to Mugabe, who did not have the necessary technical or financial means to assure a durable management and production.

The land redistribution policy, as well as the financial investment in the DRC conflict led Zimbabwe into a deep economic crisis. Unemployment and hyperinflation are the main consequences of this crisis. In 1990, only 30% of the population were unemployed, whereas in 2007, not less than 80% of the population could not find a job. In December 2007, the inflation was as high as 100,000%, according to the IMF. Today, almost half the population does not have food security3(*).

The challenges faced by ordinary Zimbabweans has been further emphasized by the effects of Operation Murambatsvina (Clean-up Operation, 18th May 2005). The International Crisis Group reported that some 700,000 people were directly affected through the loss of shelter and/or livelihoods4(*). The relocations from cities to villages have affected thousands of people throughout Zimbabwe and the displaced have placed an additional burden on the rural community to which they used to provide financial support. Many others, who could not be relocated, continue to be homeless and destitute. Social unrest and state repression are also very present in Zimbabwe, with the introduction of new laws restricting people's freedoms and rights. Basic services, such as education, health or energy (fuel, electricity) are not properly provided.

The Zimbabwe crisis appears to threaten the population in every single aspect of their life, which is highlighted by the spread of HIV & AIDS, which has now contaminated 25% of the population, according to the WHO.

Because of the crisis, from 2000 onwards, migration has risen sharply in Zimbabwe. The unsuccessful land reform process, widespread poverty and hunger, high unemployment in the formal sector and the adoption by ZANU-PF of harsh measures restricting civil and political liberties have driven millions of Zimbabweans to leave the country, either to find work abroad or just to be able to survive and live more freely. By doing so, these vulnerable people are marginalized from their families and networks in Zimbabwe, which is perhaps one of the most tragic consequences of migration from Zimbabwe. Consequently, the forced migrants are seeking refuge in the neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe, but also in further countries, such as the United-kingdom or the United States.

The crisis in Zimbabwe has regional ramifications and the whole region is affected in one way or another by this crisis. South Africa, Zambia, and Botswana are the three main countries of the region affected by the situation in Zimbabwe. As poverty is increasing in Zimbabwe, it may be spreading across the region, through forced migrants. Zimbabwe is therefore exporting poverty into the Southern African Development Community region and it is the poorest countries in the region that are most likely to suffer from the situation. This negative impact on SADC will be reflected in the African Union objectives such as poverty eradication, as well as in the Millennium Development Goals.

b. The regional impacts of the crisis: a legal and political imbroglio

So far, the SADC governments have claimed that the situation in Zimbabwe is an internal one and that they should not interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. In this context, any recognition of large numbers of Zimbabweans inside their borders could be seen as problematic, as it point out the humanitarian crisis inside Zimbabwe. Up to now, the SADC does not want to take any official position on the migrant (refugee) problem. Governments have maintained that most Zimbabweans entering South Africa, Zambia or Botswana are «economic migrants» although the legal definition of a refugee also includes «persons who leave their country because of events seriously disturbing or disrupting public order5(*)». While the governments of host countries consider the current Zimbabwean migration to be of economic nature, a wide range of civil society groups are calling for Zimbabweans to be recognized as refugees. It is clear that not all Zimbabweans have a fear of persecution.

However, economic and political reasons are often mentioned to explain why they left Zimbabwe (Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, July 2007 and Daniel Makina, September 2007). Still, many displaced Zimbabweans in neighbouring countries could be qualified as refugees under the 1951 Convention because of legitimate fears of persecution. Refugees International6(*) interviewed teachers, policemen, soldiers, journalists, and political activists who have been threatened, beaten or tortured inside Zimbabwe and who are now seeking refuge in the SADC region. Qualifying migrants as economic migrants, does not take into account the political side of the problem.

To make such a decision so as to decide whereas a Zimbabwean migrant can be considered as a refugee, or only an economic migrant, has political implications, but has also humanitarian consequences for the migrants themselves, giving them the right - or not - to be qualified to receive international aid, or to ask for asylum-seeker status. Given the Mugabe government's eagerness to use violence against its opponents, some people do risk persecution or worse (physical attack, murder), if they return to Zimbabwe.

Although the size of its economy and the employment opportunities makes South Africa the most favoured destination for forced migrants from Zimbabwe, there are no visa requirements for Zimbabweans travelling to Zambia and many simply stay on after their visitor's permit has expired. That is one of the main reasons why Zambia is hosting a large number of Zimbabwean migrants. The other one being the rather generous policy towards immigrants, and refugees in particular.

Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It shares borders with eight nations: Malawi, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Zambia has a long tradition of taking in refugees from neighbouring lands (such as Mozambique, Angola and the DRC), the Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi) and even the Horn of Africa (Somalia). Despite the potential of political destabilization, Zambia has continued to maintain an extremely open asylum policy. Zambia has an original policy, as it combines a rural settlement policy for helping refugees toward self-sufficiency and local integration, and also a repatriation policy aimed at reintegrating forced migrants to return to their country of origin, once conflicts are over. Most refugees have been grouped not in camps, as it is often the case, but in agricultural settlements, where they are granted land and farm implements.

The Zambian government is supported in its efforts by international organizations, such as the UNHCR, which is implementing government policies. In response to the refugee situation in Zambia, local integration is one of the three durable solutions implemented by the UNHCR, the two others being voluntary repatriation and resettlement in a third country of asylum. Local integration means «allowing and helping refugees to recreate viable communities in the country of first asylum enabling them to take part in economic and social activities in the host country» (Véronique Lasailly-Jacob, June-July 2007). As most Zimbabweans are not yet considered as refugees, the UNHCR can not directly work with them.

According to Refugees International, there are no organizations working directly with Zimbabweans as a matter of policy, although many organizations recognized that Zimbabweans were in their service base. The organizations that were most interested in this issue include Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services, and the International Organization for Migration. The Southern African Legal Aid Center (part of the Legal Resources Foundation) in Lusaka was also conducting some surveys into the Zimbabwean population.

For the last thirty years, Zambia has provided a safe haven for Africans fleeing colonialism, racist oppression and occupation. During this time, there has been little conflict between the host and refugee populations. Today, Zimbabwean migrants in Zambia want to find there a safe place where they will be able to work and live. Regarding the number of Zimbabweans in Zambia, the Government and the United Nations refused to put an official number on the population7(*). During the last Annual Southern African Development Community Heads of State and Government Summit8(*), the Zambian government decided to ban peaceful demonstrations by local and Zimbabwean civil societies, who wanted to raise their voice against the restriction of liberties in Zimbabwe. More than forty activists on their way to Lusaka were deported back to Zimbabwe. This single event could sum up the attitude of the Zambian government towards Zimbabweans in its country.

According to an article published on the 5th August 2007 in the International Herald Tribune, «Zambian immigration authorities are struggling to cope with a sudden upsurge in Zimbabweans crossing the border to shop for basic products9(*)». The Immigration Department of Livingstone, a southern city of Zambia located on the border of Zimbabwe, reported that «the number of Zimbabweans crossing into Zambia had daily risen from 60 to 1,000 persons, with long lines forming at the border post every day». Most people are crossing into Zambia to buy basic goods such as bread, corn flour and milk that are now unavailable or unaffordable in Zimbabwe. Some of them return home after buying the products, but more and more Zimbabweans seek to remain in Zambia.

Up to now, as it was said before, Zimbabweans in Zambia are considered as economic migrants, and not refugees, who, under Zambian law, have equal rights as Zambian citizens. It is therefore important to understand by which means the Zimbabwean migrants in Zambia are protected and managed, according to the domestic laws of Zambia, but also to the ratified international laws.

The Constitution of Zambia grants fundamental rights «to all persons in the country, not limited to citizens, including the rights to life, liberty, property, protection from torture or degrading treatment, and protection of the law». It includes, however, exceptions to the right to personal liberty in the cases of people who entered the country illegally. This restriction has important consequences for the Zimbabweans as most of them are and remain illegal. In Part III concerning the protection of fundamental rights and freedom of the individual, Article 22 describes the freedom of movement, in which «No citizen shall be deprived of his freedom of movement», but a restriction is made for «the freedom of movement of any person who is not a citizen of Zambia». In the same part, Article 13 reinforces this distinction between citizens and non-citizens, saying that «No person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person», but this right is «Not accorded to persons who are not citizens of Zambia».

The Immigration and Deportation Act is an Act «to regulate the entry into and the remaining within Zambia of immigrants and visitors; to provide for the removal from Zambia of criminals and other specified persons». This Act classifies the persons who are "prohibited immigrant", and states that «Any prostitute or person who in Zambia has knowingly lived wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution or has procured any other person for immoral purposes» is considered as a prohibited immigrant. The other two main aspects concern «Any person [who is] not the holder of a valid permit to remain in Zambia», but also «[Any person who] is likely to become a charge on the Republic in consequence of his inability to support himself and any of his dependants in Zambia and to provide for the removal of himself and such dependants from Zambia».

Zimbabwean immigrants are indeed much concerned with the Immigration and Deportation Act, as the main reason for them to be in Zambia remains the will to find there a place where they could earn money, for in Zimbabwe money has become obsolete. It is not difficult to understand how important it could be for them to be regularize, as it would give them the right to remain in Zambia, without the fear of being deported for not having a permit or enough money.

The Refugee Control Act is an «Act to make provision for the control of refugees». In this Act, refugees are «persons who are, or prior to their entry into Zambia were, ordinarily resident outside Zambia and who have sought asylum in Zambia owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion». The position of the Zambian government for not recognizing Zimbabwean migrants as refugees seems unusual in a country where Congolese, Mozambicans and Angolans have been granted the status of refugees after fleeing conflicts in their country.

Zambia ratified the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. In the last convention, The term refugee «shall also apply to every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality». This introduces a new notion for the recognition of a person as a refugee, that-is-to-say the «events seriously disturbing public order». With this new element, not only Zimbabweans who fear persecution could apply for the status of a refugee, but also any Zimbabwean, as Zimbabwe can be considered as a country where pubic disorder is present, because a lot of people were forced to leave their «habitual residence» (Operation Murambatsvina).

However, as the government refuses to recognize Zimbabweans as refugees, they can not be granted protection by these international laws. International organizations in Zambia such as UNHCR can not provide any assistance or food to the Zimbabwean population as they do not «fit in the boxes».

As it was described in the first part, the Zimbabwean crisis, originally emerging from economic aspects has led to social and political consequences in Zimbabwe itself, but also in the region surrounding Zimbabwe. South Africa, Zambia and Botswana are trying to deal with a growing number of forced migrants willing to escape the worsening situation in Zimbabwe. Zambia, usually known for its rather generous policy towards refugees, is leading an opposite strategy towards Zimbabwean migrants, not recognized as refugees, even if most - if not all - of them could be granted that status. That paradoxical behaviour implies a certain political position taken by the Zambian government vis-à-vis Zimbabwe government and its President. The position of the Zambian government is however quite problematic, as there are more and more Zimbabweans entering the country, and if the government does not make an effort to address the issue correctly, Zimbabweans could become a more essential problem than they are now.

II An important range of consequences : from negative to constructive impacts of Zimbabwean forced migrants

c. Impacts of Zimbabwean forced migrants in Zambia: negative consequences and benefits for the host country

As it was former said, the arrival of Zimbabwean forced migrants in the region, and especially in Zambia, tends to spread poverty, as most Zimbabweans fleeing their country are destitute and unemployed. Moreover, Zambia is a rather poor country, with about 68% of Zambians living below the recognised national poverty line10(*). It is also one of the most highly urbanised country in Sub-Saharan Africa and unemployment in urban areas is a serious problem for Zambians, and rural poverty, more severe than urban poverty, is also present is the least developed regions of Zambia, particularly in remote provinces. Southern provinces have a particular high concentration of poverty, the land being less fertile than in the Centre, and the climate being drier. This is particularly important as far as Zimbabweans are concerned, for Zambia shares its border with Zimbabwe in the South of the country, meaning that Zimbabweans fleeing Zimbabwe will end up first in the Southern provinces of Zambia.

As cited by Refugees International, many Zimbabweans have settled on their own in border areas or in major cities, in particular Lusaka. Although there are no official figures for the number of Zimbabweans resident in Lusaka, unofficial estimates have put the figure at 10,000 or more11(*). Other cities, such as Livingstone, Chirundu and Siavonga are major cities on the border with Zimbabwe. It is easy to understand, then, the risk of increase in poverty in the capital, but also in the three main cities in the Southern provinces, as they represent the most highly populated cities, facing over-unemployment. In the cities, it could create important economic tensions, as most Zimbabweans going to Zambia are generally poor, Zimbabweans end up competing with Zambians for scarce resources including healthcare, food, education and so on.

Due to the political instability in Zimbabwe, tourists had begun visiting Zambia instead, but the situation reverses. In the short term, as famous tourist destinations in Zambia are located near the border of Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls, Livingstone City), the continuing arrival of Zimbabweans in these places could bring more economic and social instability, resulting in tourists not wanting to visit the places any more.

The importation of poverty to Zambia is emphasized by the risk of state fragilization faced by Zambia, with the risk of political and social instability in Zimbabwe spreading to Zambia. An example was former described in the essay, when the Zambian government decided to arrest Zimbabweans but also Zambian activists trying to raise their voice against the Mugabe regime during the last Annual Southern African Development Community Heads of State and Government Summit. Moreover, some regional countries, including Zambia, have begun to complain about the economic impact Zimbabwe's decline is having on their national economies. The recent events around the last elections in Zimbabwe (29th March 2008), where official results are not yet published, led to some observers saying the delay has «provoked a constitutional crisis, causing instability in Zimbabwe that threatens to spill over to the region12(*)».

The instability risk in Zambia is emphasized by the risk of increase in crime, the cities already overpopulated are facing a real security challenge, where Zimbabwean migrants are sometimes perceived as a vehicle of local violence. Prostitution is also becoming a major problem for the main cities. Indeed, an important number of Zimbabwean women are reported to work as commercial sex workers, especially in Livingstone and Lusaka. BBC news reported a number of «300 Zimbabwean women working in prostitution in the Zambian border town of Livingstone» and, according to Livingstone town clerk George Kalenga, «Zimbabwean sex workers offered lower rates than their Zambian counterparts13(*)». This problem is rather important, in the fact that prostitution contributes to the spread of HIV and AIDS. Displaced population, such as forced migrants, are at higher risk to contract the virus during and after displacement, «due to factors of poverty, disruption of family/social structures and health services, increase in sexual violence, and increase in socio-economic vulnerability (particularly of women and children)» (UNAIDS statistics).

According to UNAIDS, almost 60% of Zimbabwean adults living with HIV and AIDS at the end of 2006 were female. As far as young people are concerned, women represent around 77% of people between the ages of 15 and 24 living with HIV and AIDS. Zimbabweans migrants, and especially women, are more vulnerable to diseases, and sexually-transmitted diseases in particular, coming from a country where HIV and AIDS rates are high, especially among women. In Zambia, the situation is not far better. Although Zambia seems already burdened with the effects of the HIV and AIDS pandemic (HIV and AIDS prevalence rate among adults is around 17%, UNAIDS), forced migration of Zimbabweans may further exacerbate this situation. The Zimbabwean women often survived by street vending, begging and working in the sex industry, but earlier this year the Zambian government decided to ban street vending in Lusaka, leaving sex work as the only option available to many women.

Facing all the difficulties former described, the Zimbabweans have been forced to find strategies to adapt themselves to their problematic situation. To a certain extent, grouping of migrants in certain areas and the strong will to support themselves instead of depending on relatives or international organizations' assistance enabled Zimbabwean migrants to get out from this difficult situation. Thanks to this strategy, migrants have formed close communities within specific geographical areas and have engaged in work activities. By doing so, they can bring benefits for the country hosting them, Zambia.

While it appears that the largest concentrations of Zimbabweans can be found in Lusaka, Livingstone, Chirundu andSiavonga, reports were made to Refugees International that many Zimbabweans are working in the Copperbelt as well. The region mainly produces copper and cobalt, and demands an important workforce. As most Zimbabweans are rather young (old people preferring to remain in Zimbabwe), a vast majority of them are able to work, especially for harsh works, such as mining or construction labour. Other jobs, such as agricultural labour and works in labour-intensive manufacturing also represent a means for forced migrants to earn some money, preferring finance autonomy to food dependency. This population represents a cheap workforce for Zambia firms which are not meant to pay them as much as the Zambian workers, for most Zimbabweans working remain illegal in Zambia.

The whole country may benefit from this cheap workforce as it enables an increase in production, leading to an increase in exports and economic growth for Zambia. Zimbabweans in Zambia, even if not paid or rather poor, will nevertheless have to buy food and basic goods, which can contribute to the Zambia economy, even though it will not be at a large scale. It is important to remind that the conditions in which these Zimbabweans workers are working and leaving are usually terrible, and there is an urgent need of the Zambian government to recognize the particular status of Zimbabwean migrants, as this would contribute to an improved quality of life for them.

It is true that the vast majority of Zimbabweans coming to Zambia are rather poor, but there are also qualified and quite wealthy Zimbabweans who have come to this country, even if most of them, if the opportunity appeared, have fled to richer country such as the United Kingdom, the United States or South Africa. However, it has been reported that a certain number of qualified people, especially owners of Zimbabwean companies, have entered Zambia and remained there. This brain drain, dramatically impacting on Zimbabwe, can be seen as an opportunity for Zambia, which clearly benefits from receiving qualified and skilled migrants from Zimbabwe. Qualified Zimbabweans such as street traders, farmers, investors and professionals have now settled in Zambia14(*).

Zimbabwean companies are now implemented in Zambia and they participated in the creation of employment for Zambians, even if these companies tend to employ mostly Zimbabweans, they can, to a certain extend, contribute to the economy and development of Zambia. According to the state-run Zambia Investment Centre (ZIC), Zimbabweans have made business commitments worth more than US$ 73 million since 2002, creating almost 10,000 jobs15(*). «Between January 2002 and 2008, the ZIC issued 78 investment licenses to Zimbabweans in various sectors. Of these, over 50 were in the agricultural sector, covering machinery supply, horticulture and the production of tobacco, maize and wheat. Others have invested in manufacturing, construction, health, services, tourism and transport»16(*). Zambia has proved to be an attractive investment to Zimbabweans because of the government's emphasis on private-sector participation in the economy.

Zimbabwean farmers, who lost their land and farm after the destructive land reform policy led by Mugabe's government, have fled to Zambia. Songowayo Zyambo, Executive Director of the Zambia National Farmers' Union, said that more than 120 former Zimbabwean commercial farmers were members of the organisation. According to him, "They are contributing greatly to Zambia's improved agricultural production by cultivating huge hectares of the land that was just lying idle in the past17(*)". The arrival of Zimbabwean farmers contributed to boost agriculture production. Zimbabwean farmers are mainly White farmers, who were the main target of the land reform in Zimbabwe, brought their financial means to Zambia, and helped to develop Zambian agriculture. These farmers create jobs for rural Zambians, the poorest part of the Zambian population. Sydney Chileshe, Chief Executive of the Zambia Export Growers Association, declared that "These Zimbabwean white farmers have employed a lot of local workers - some have over 400 workers, which is why we are seeing an influx of people from other parts of the country coming to seek employment here. Our standards of living have tremendously improved ever since they settled here18(*)".

The flow of labour and economic capital has social consequences, as it brings new ideas and skills to enhance Zambian economy, but it has impacts on the Zimbabwean economy as well. The benefits Zambia receives from Zimbabwean migrants may be limited. The money earned by qualified and highly skilled workers, and also those of manual workers, may not be totally spent in Zambia, but, considering the dramatic situation in Zimbabwe, rather be sent to Zimbabwe in the form of remittances. Consequently the income which would ordinarily be spent in Zambia would, in reality, be invested in the Zimbabwean economy. Zimbabwean workers in Zambia, but also cross-borders traders between Zambia and Zimbabwe, are influencing Zimbabwe economy.

d. Zimbabwean migrants' direct constructive impacts on Zimbabwe

In the case of Zimbabwe, migration is of forced nature, but Zimbabweans have been able to adapt themselves to the harsh situation they faced when arriving in Zambia, and managed, for some of them, to find a job and earn money. This livelihood strategy enabling Zimbabweans to find employment allowed them to earn enough money to send remittances to help the survival of family and friends in Zimbabwe. Remittances may be defined as the transfer of money by migrant workers to their home country. It is rather difficult to establish the precise contribution of remittances since such funds are frequently sent through informal and private channels, and also since the number of Zimbabweans in Zambia are unknown.

However, some evidence collected after interviews with people working in banks, for instance, indicate that remittances sent to Zimbabwe show that these cash transfers are occurring on a massive scale (Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, July 2007).

In the situation of Zimbabwe where hyperinflation, parallel exchange rates far higher than official rates and over-unemployment are current consequences of a very declining economy, remittances have become even more crucial for Zimbabweans remaining in Zimbabwe. At household level, but also at local and national levels, remittances have the potential to contribute significantly to the survival of Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe. At the household level, remittances can help reduce the poverty of those receiving them, either in being a supplement to their income or provide them with funds they were unable to get in Zimbabwe. The funds can afterwards be used for consumption goods or savings. At a larger scale, remittances also provide a source of foreign exchange, in a country where the Zimbabwean dollar does not worth something anymore.

In 2007, Zimbabweans abroad sent home US$ 361 million excluding hand-in-hand transfers, representing 7,2% of the country's 2006 GDP, according to data compiled by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

It is important to emphasize that it is not only the economic remittances, but also the transfer of knowledge, skills and innovations that can play a major role in the (re)construction of Zimbabwe. Indeed, Zimbabwean migrants contribute to their home country development in both financial (mostly remittances, but also cross-borders trading) and non-financial ways. In a certain way, remittances network is «sponsoring» social change through its important work of social survival. Zimbabwean migrants also have a social and political role to play, when being abroad, for they can experience a political, social and cultural environment, different to Zimbabwe, and afterwards, export new ideas to support democratization and the protection of human rights in Zimbabwe. For instance, the situation in Zimbabwe led many women to take on roles as cross-border traders to support their families and at the same time learning new skills. Moreover, women both send remittances as migrants, and usually receive them as heads of households.

The social implications of these different roles for women's economic and social status is still not much studied, but it appears clearly that such a trend could be of future benefit as it diversifies gender roles and empowers women, which has social benefits in itself.


Through this essay, I tried to maximise the positive impact of forced migration while limiting its negative consequences for countries of origin, and destination, as well as for the individual migrants themselves, women as well as men. It is true that forced migration's consequences can mainly be addressed in negative terms, such as poverty, violence, diseases... Yet, to approach forced migration under its negative impacts only does not allow to build an objective and complete reality, leading to understand all the consequences of forced migration. It is also true that in the case of forced migration of Zimbabweans, the migration Zambia is quite new and lack organization. Zimbabweans are mainly living on economic survival. Nevertheless, on the long term, a more general positive change could emerge, especially from women, qualified workers, but also from manual workers who are able to gather in unions or civil society groups, so that Zimbabwean migrants in Zambia raise their voice so as to be recognized certain rights.

Certainly, for the Zambian government, to grant a status of refugee to Zimbabwean «economic migrants» will mean to take a political position on the Zimbabwe crisis, but it could also be beneficial to Zambia, as the Zimbabwean migrants who will be granted the status of refugees, for instance, could then be provided aid and assistance by international organizations, hence reducing the poverty level of migrants. This will also mean greater individual security through the right to legally remain in the country, and the value of this should not be under-estimated, the right to study, to work, or to establish a business. Efforts by the Zambian government to regularize the status of irregular Zimbabwean migrants could bring positive results in terms of more effective migration management, but also in terms of poverty reduction as well as an increase in human rights protection.

On a greater regional level, as the Zimbabwe crisis in not only affecting Zambia, but also South Africa and Botswana, the SADC should break their silence on the crisis in Zimbabwe and place pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to publish official and definitive results after the 29th March elections. In the longer term, a regional policy towards Zimbabwean migrants would help resolving the problematic situation of Zimbabwean migrants being daily deported back to Zimbabwe. This vicious circle must end up.


Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, July 2007, «Displacements of Zimbabweans into Malawi: the implications for poverty eradication efforts», Lilongwe, Malawi, Research report

Ghosh Bimal, 2005, «Costs and benefits of migrations. Chapter 8: Economic effects of international migration, a synoptic overview», World migration

Lassailly-Jacob Véronique, June-July 2007, «From Zambia to Mozambique. Mozambican returnees and former refugees in the border area», University of Poitiers, Migrinter, Fieldwork Report

Makina Daniel, September 2007, «Survey of profile of migrant Zimbabweans in South Africa: a pilot study», University of South Africa, South Africa, Research Report

Ohta Itaru, Gebre Yntiso D., 2005, «Displacement risks in Africa : refugees, resettlers and their host population», Kyoto University Press and Trans Pacific Press

Specific reports:

Development Indicators Unit, Statistics Division, UN, 30th November, 2007

« Southern African Leaders Meet on Zimbabwe», Voice of America, 12 April 2008

UNAIDS resources:

Humanitarian Unit, HIV and conflict settings, Annual Update 2002

Report on the global AIDS epidemic, country profile: Zambia and Zimbabwe 2006

Legal resources:

Constitution of Zambia

Immigration and Deportation Act

Refugee Control Act

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa

Useful Internet websites: : Integrated Regional Information Networks, humanitarian news and analysis, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs : Forced Migration Online : Campaign Against Arms Trade : International Crisis Group : Refugees International : Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa : Zimbabwe news : African news agency

* 1

* 2

* 3 The figures precited are for information only and are based on different sources, as there are no official figures available

* 4

* 5 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa

* 6 Most information from Refugees International come from interviews with Sean Mariano Garcia, Advocate for

Refugees International

* 7 Information delivered by Refugees International

* 8 On the 17th August 2007

* 9

* 10 Development Indicators Unit, Statistics Division, UN, 30th November, 2007

* 11

* 12 « Southern African Leaders Meet on Zimbabwe», Voice of America, 12 April 2008

* 13

* 14

* 15

* 16

* 17 Ibid.

* 18