“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.”