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08 Oct 2021

“They are too quiet about migration”: A scoping exercise exploring migration and disability in South Africa

Migrants, particularly those living with disability, have often been described as a hidden and hard-to-reach population. A scoping exercise was conducted to shed more light on the nature of migration and disability, with a focus on the extent to which migrants living with disability are included in related policies in South Africa. The methodology included a desk review of policies, strategies and guidelines on migration and disability in South Africa and, more broadly, Southern Africa; interviews with key policy and programming stakeholders; and a photojournalism project documenting the experiences of migrants with disabilities. The research focused on the province of Gauteng, a major destination for migrants hoping for a better life, and Musina, a major entry point into South Africa.  One key finding is that while there are national and international policies on disability in general, few are cognizant of the specific needs and rights of migrants with disabilities. As a result, vulnerable migrants with disabilities remain hidden and are excluded not just from policies, but also from subsequent social welfare programming. This research, including the photojournalism project, documents the challenges that migrants experience and clearly demonstrates that migrants with disabilities stand to be left behind unless more is undertaken in terms of policy and programming to ensure that their rights are upheld and that their needs are addressed. To ensure that they are not left behind, recommendations include generating reliable and quality data to build a strong evidence base on migrants with disabilities, as well as improving understanding of their help-seeking strategies. There is a need for migration-aware and mobility-competent policies and programmes in South Africa for their well-being.

  • Acronyms
  • Acknowledgements
  • Definitions of selected terms
  • Executive summary
  • Migrant’s story: Hope and Beauty
  • 1. Background
  • 2. Literature review: The intersection of migration and disability
    • 2.1. The compounding effect of impairment on migration
    • 2.2. Disability and the migration journey
    • 2.3. Shelter, water, sanitation and other infrastructure 
    • 2.4. Protection, psychosocial and information dissemination
    • 2.5. Access to mainstream and specialized services
    • 2.6. Migration, disability and health 
    • 2.7. Institutional and administrative barriers
    • 2.8. Evidence gaps 
  • 3. Research aim, objectives and questions
    • 3.1. Research objectives
    • 3.2. Research questions
  • 4. Methodology
    • 4.1. Interviews with key informants
    • 4.2. Research ethics clearance
    • 4.3. Study limitations
  • 5. Policy review
    • 5.1. International (global), continental and regional policies on migration and disability 
    • 5.2. Review of national policies relating to migration and disability in South Africa Migrant’s story: “On the other side”
  • 6. Study findings
    • 6.1. Disability: A generally neglected issue in South Africa
    • 6.2. Lack of accurate and reliable statistics on migrants with disabilities
    • 6.3. Countries of origin and main drivers of migration for migrants with disabilities
    • 6.4. Pedominant forms of disability
    • 6.5. Limited social networks for migrants with disabilities in South Africa
    • 6.6. Poor living conditions among migrants with disabilities
    • 6.7. The challenges of navigating the system without the necessary documents
    • 6.8. Begging, abuse and exploitation
    • 6.9. Exclusionary social protection mechanisms
    • 6.10. Health-care needs, challenges and access to support
    • 6.11. Policy on disability: Limited engagement with migration and exclusion of migrants from programmes
    • 6.12. Conclusion
  • 7. Recommendations
  • Bibliography