This is part three of a five part assignment for IOM International Organization for Migration on the rebuilding of Zimbabwe after an unprecedented economic and civil collapse. Photos Copyright ©2009 Austin Andrews / International Organization for Migration (IOM) except where noted. Not to be reprinted or reproduced without permission.
This past August, Will van Engen (blog link) and I visited Zimbabwe on a photographic assignment for IOM International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to promoting safe and humane migration in high-risk nations. Few countries recently have been in the headlines as much for migration issues as Zimbabwe, a failed state wracked by economic implosion where one third of the population now lives abroad, much of it illegally in neighbouring South Africa.
As a photography trip, it was ill-conceived: IOM organised an itinerary that compressed an entire country’s worth of far-flung project sites into one week of shooting. A Land Cruiser sent us tumbling down some of the worst roads in the world, chasing light and perpetually behind schedule. For every ten minutes spent travelling we’d be lucky to have a minute shooting. But as an experience it was one of the richest and most worthwhile trips of my life. I look back on the photographs below with rose-tinted fondness.
Part three takes us to two separate project sites on opposite sides of the country with different focuses on the same issue: safe migration.
PROJECT ONE / AWARENESS
IOM volunteers suit up at a UN World Food Programme distribution gathering in rural Masvingo province, an area that has seen an alarming percentage of its population flee into neighbouring South Africa. Their mission is to promote safe migration, raise awareness of hazards and prepare would-be migrants for the difficult journey ahead.
Locals crowd around an IOM volunteer distributing information on safe migration.
"Are you thinking of migrating?"
IOM volunteers distribute and play a game of Safe Migration Snakes and Ladders.
Eager fingertips await information.
PROJECT TWO / MIGRANT PROCESSING
An IOM billboard demarcates the dusty border between Zimbabwe and Botswana outside the town of Plumtree. A hotspot for illegal crossings, IOM operates a migrant processing centre on the Zimbabwean side of the border.
A truckful of deported migrants rounded up in nearby Francistown, Botswana arrives back in Zimbabwe at the IOM processing centre. The centre sees an estimated 3000 failed migrants a month, not accounting for those who attempt the dangerous border crossing more than once.
First steps back on Zimbabwean soil for a few of the 3000 illegal Zimbabweans captured and deported monthly from Francistown, Botswana.
Zimbabweans walk toward an immigration office for processing after being deported from Botswana.
A Zimbabwean immigration official addresses a room of would-be migrants deported from Botswana for illegal immigration.
The immigration official addresses the group to ensure no Botswanan citizens were mistakenly rounded up.
Migrants await repatriation papers in a processing queue in the IOM compound.
A dance troupe entertains the repatriated migrants while they await transportation back to Harare and Bulawayo.