The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

  1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. Southern Africa
  4. South Africa

Out of Sight: Blind migrants in Johannesburg

Out of Sight

IRIN’s latest film, Out of Sight, explores the lives of blind undocumented migrants from Zimbabwe as they try and eke out a living begging on the streets of Johannesburg.

"Life was tough [in Zimbabwe] because of sanctions. There was no food, everything was complicated, no food, no cash," explains Elizabeth, a blind former school teacher. "A friend just told me they are going to South Africa. It’s better when we beg there."
But it is a precarious existence for Elizabeth and her companions who share a room in one of the city's many dilapidated and abandoned buildings. After the danger and difficulty of crossing the border, they are confronted by xenophobia in South Africa, which often blames migrants for the country's stubbornly high rates of poverty and unemployment.
In the aftermath of xenophobic violence, the South African government put in place a moratorium on deportations to Zimbabwe in 2009, enabling undocumented migrants to regularize their status. But none of the women in this film were able to take advantage of that dispensation. Deportations resumed in October 2011, and to date, more than 10,000 undocumented migrants have been expelled to Zimbabwe, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Of the undocumented migrants in South Africa, the disabled are among the most vulnerable. "They just talk, 'We want to send you back, we want to send you back'," says Rachel. "It’s their country, we can’t do anything."
For further information:

Asylum-seekers resort to border jumping
Deportations of Zimbabwean migrants set to resume
Blind beggars go south

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

Share this article
Join the discussion

Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.

We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant. 

But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced. 

You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission. 

Support The New Humanitarian today.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.