Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
South Africa has deported 421 Zimbabweans who have been stuck at Lindelani Repatriation Holding Centre in Johannesburg for periods ranging from three to eight months.
It is understood that these were part of the close to 960 Zimbabweans who were being kept at the centre, amid reports that the Department of Home Affairs has no funds to deport them.
These were deported for overstaying, lack of legal travel documents, while others had finished serving jail terms for various offences committed in that country.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro said South Africa started deporting people to Zimbabwe in February after the embassy engaged the host government over the issue.
He said under normal circumstances, the immigrants should be kept at the detention centre for three weeks.
The latest group comprising 397 men and 24 women was brought into the country by road in a convoy of five buses through the Beitbridge Border Post.
“We have started identifying and documenting our people at Lindelani Holding Centre and have engaged the Home Affairs department on the need to move them,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro. “These efforts have paid dividends and we are left with around 600 people. You will note that they (Home Affairs) stopped deporting people in October last year and only resumed deportations in February this year.” Mr Mukonoweshuro said they will continue engaging the host government to ensure that the Zimbabweans were quickly moved out of Lindelani.
Lindelani is one of South Africa’s largest facilities for the holding of undocumented migrants, most of whom will be awaiting determination of their legal status in South Africa or deportation.
Detainees are repatriated and transported by Home Affairs, almost on a daily basis, through border posts to neighbouring countries or the OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria Airport.
Early this year, it was reported that the Home Affairs department had no funds to transport the immigrants to their respective countries, forcing them to repatriate only those immigrants who were seriously ill by road.
A total of 50 sick Zimbabweans were deported from Lindelani Holding Centre between January and February this year.
The majority of them had acute respiratory infections.
The deported immigrants are being assisted by the Department of Social Services with warrants to travel to their respective homes.
The number of people seeking assistance from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) upon being deported from South Africa by road through Beitbridge Border Post dropped by 28 percent at the end of 2014.
IOM said between January and December last year they offered assistance to a total of 18 368 irregular migrants as compared to 27 509 in 2013.