Although there is no reliable data, with an estimated 4 to 7 million people living outside of the country, Zimbabwe has one of the highest per capita rates of net migration in the world. Zimbabwe is also home to an estimated 207,000 migrants from neighbouring countries such as Malawi and Mozambique.

Over the course of the pandemic, Zimbabwe’s migrant workers have faced various challenges, particularly as many of them work as essential workers or have irregular migration status, which means no access to sick pay, healthcare or any kind of social protection. “In other cases, they were among the first to be retrenched due to their economic status as migrants,” says Maria Ribeiro, the resident coordinator for United Nations Zimbabwe.

As a result, over 180,000 migrant workers from Zimbabwe have returned home with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Ribeiro. But in order to better support migrant workers – both those from Zimbabwe living and working abroad and those from other countries living and working in Zimbabwe – the government of Zimbabwe launched its inaugural National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) in June this year.