The South African Government will deport over 1 350 Zimbabweans starting today, 800 of them by train as it seeks to clear illegal immigrants and decongest Lindelani Repatriations Holding Centre in Johannesburg.
It stopped deporting illegal immigrants by train 10 years ago and has been using buses and trucks until the recent decision that authorities said was meant to cut deportation costs.
Lindela is one of South Africa’s largest facilities for holding undocumented migrants, most of whom will be waiting for determination of their legal status in South Africa (or deportation).
Detainees are repatriated and transported by the Home Affairs Ministry, almost on a daily basis to border posts or the OR Tambo International and Lanseria Airports.
Zimbabwe’s Consul General to South Africa, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, confirmed the developments yesterday.
“We have completed the documentation of 1 350 Zimbabweans at Lindelani centre who are now due for repatriation.
“The first batch of 440 will arrive in Zimbabwe tomorrow (today) in a convoy of eight buses while the remaining 800 will leave Johannesburg by train for Beitbridge on Tuesday next week,” he said.
“We understand this is a way of cutting costs on the host government in terms of transporting immigrants to their respective countries. Last week they sent a larger group to Mozambique by rail”.
He said those who would be deported by train would be accompanied by over 150 South African authorities including the police and home affairs officials.
The train would leave the deportees at the Beitbridge Railway Station, adjacent to the reception and support centre where the immigrants are handed over to Zimbabwean authorities.
Mr Mukonoweshuro said the move to deport people by train was arrived at since the ongoing operation “Fiela” (clean-up) was netting in a number of several illegal immigrants.
The operation was mooted by the South African government in reaction to a wave of xenophobic attacks targeting African immigrants, which broke out in Durban and Johannesburg.
It is being jointly implemented by the police, army and immigration authorities.
“Most of those being deported have either overstayed or have no proper travelling documents while close to 100 have completed serving in prison for various offences. As the consulate, we want to urge our people to always travel legally and they should seek for the right visas and permits before entering South Africa. We are also concerned with those parents who travel with undocumented children, this problem does not affect them only, but we have a challenge in documenting these children,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro.