THE government has started making efforts to address an immigration crisis in the country, following revelations that foreigners, particularly Rwandese, are entering the country as refugees and then establishing enterprises without following the proper procedures, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
The Independent is reliably informed that the foreigners have been coming into the country as refugees and would stay at the Tongogara Refugee Camp (TRC) for a week, then disappear, only to emerge as tuck shop or small business owners in Harare and surrounding towns.
This, according to immigration sources, is in violation of the country’s Refugee Act.
A senior immigration source said raids were being conducted to flush out illegal immigrants.
“There have been raids to flash out illegal immigrants, and the government is going to issue a statement on the matter,” the source said.
Immigration of Zimbabwe director general Respect Gono and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare permanent secretary Simon Masanga did not respond to questions sent.
TRC is in the south-east of Zimbabwe where over 15 000 people live, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Burundi, and Rwanda.
It was established in 1984 when Zimbabwe took in refugees from Mozambique, who were fleeing from the war between the government and the Mozambican National Resistance Movement (Renamo). The camp is said to have held as many as 58 000 refugees at one point.
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Zimbabwe’s economic difficulties have driven the country into a largely informal economy where small retail shops have sprung up on the city streets, while large floor shops have been subdivided to accommodate the mushrooming tuck shops dominated by foreigners.
The government has since issued a directive requiring foreign nationals to obtain proper documentation in order to conduct business operations.
This decision was prompted by the realisation that some foreigners operating tuck shops in Harare’s downtown area should be technically residing in refugee camps.
Tuck shop Owners Association representative Chamunorwa Mukova encouraged everyone in the business sector to have proper documentation, regardless of their nationality.
“We follow our country’s mantra: ‘Zimbabwe is open for business.’ Therefore, foreigners are permitted to execute their business activities, but they should be in possession of full documentation to ensure that they respect reserved sectors for Zimbabweans,” Mukova said.
“Immigration officers should constantly do check-ups on whether foreigners are abiding by Zimbabwean laws.”
Recently, the government launched a crackdown on dubious Chinese investors, who have been operating in the country without proper documentation.