By NQOBANI NDLOVU
AT LEAST 100 Congolese migrants, including children, are reportedly being detained by immigration authorities after they were discovered at a house in one of Bulawayo’s low-density suburbs.
The Congolese were reportedly en-route to Botswana after allegedly escaping from the country’s Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge.
It is not clear how they managed to travel from Chipinge to Bulawayo, a distance of over 500km, during the COVID-19 lockdown period when intercity travel has been banned.
Sources said the Congolese migrants were discovered at a Bulawayo house on Monday following a tip-off, leading to their detention at Hillside Police Station while alternative accommodation was being sought by the Social Welfare Department.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima confirmed the detention, saying the ministry would launch investigations into how the migrants left T ongogara.
“I don’t have details, but our position as a ministry is that they are supposed to be at Tongogara Refugee Camp. However, for now, they have to be processed by the police and their case will have to be reviewed by immigration authorities to see if there is any law that has been broken,” Mavima told NewsDay.
“If any law has been broken, then justice will take its course. From our perspective as a ministry which is responsible for administration and welfare of the migrants, there has to be a review of how they got there (Bulawayo); and address the gaps and lapses.”
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National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that 104 Congolese refugees escaped from Tongogara camp.
“What is clear is that these are refugees from DRC who were coming from Tongogara Refugee Camp. Some of them have got their papers and currently they are going through COVID-19 processes and also vetting by relevant government departments,” Nyathi said.
In July, police arrested 73 Malawian migrants in Beitbridge, who were on their way to South Africa. Ten of the migrants tested positive to COVID-19, resulting in the postponement of their appeal before a local magistrate.
In June, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) facilitated the safe return of about 100 Malawians found stranded in Beitbridge.
Zimbabwe is a transit country for migrants heading to South Africa in search of work and other economic opportunities.
In 2020, reports emerged that Zimbabwean authorities were investigating how 23 Malawians escaped from police cells after they were arrested for border jumping in Beitbridge.
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