SA deportations commence

South Africa deported 261 undocumented immigrants from Zimbabwe last week, just days after announcing it was ending a two-year moratorium on deportations of illegal immigrants from its northern neighbour.

Home Affairs officials said more immigrants were expected to be expelled, with deportations scheduled to take place every Wednesday and Thursday.

The deportees were handed over to the International Organisation for Migration, which last week said it had put in place resources to provide humanitarian assistance to deportees – including protection services, basic medical treatment, temporary shelter, food and transportation.

The IOM said its reception centre at Beitbridge had capacity to assist 600 people per day or about 18 000 people per month.

Pretoria had refrained from deporting illegal Zimbabwean immigrants while carrying out a special project to issue permits to thousands who continue to flock to their more prosperous neighbour in search of jobs and better living conditions, and to escape political persecution.

But only 275 762 Zimbabweans applied for permits under the project. There are an estimated two million Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

Department of Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said last week that Zimbabweans who applied for permits under the special project would not be deported even if their applications were yet to be finalised.

“However, those who did not take advantage of the regularisation project, including those who continue to undermine South Africa’s immigration laws by entering the country illegally, cannot claim protection of the country’s rules and regulations governing the regularisation of Zimbabweans living in South Africa,” he said.

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