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1,041 Malawians still stranded in South Africa prison

Over 1,000 Malawians are stranded at Lindela Repatriation Centre at Krugersdorp in west Johannesburg, South Africa, after they were arrested for poor documentation of residing there.

Lindela is one of South Africa’s largest facilities for the holding of undocumented migrants awaiting deportation. The illegal immigrants who are at the centre are arrested in regular sweeps by the South African Police Services (Saps).

According to acting spokesperson for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, John Kabhage, 60 percent of Malawians at Lindela are from Mangochi while 30 percent are from Mzimba.

“Malawi Government does not know when these Malawians will be repatriated. It is the South African government’s responsibility to repatriate them to Malawi under international law,” he said.

Kabhage said there are several considerations that have to be looked into including finances as well as safety of the passage from South Africa to Malawi if they will use road transport.

Most of the foreigners that are detained at Lindela are Malawians who move to South Africa in search of greener pastures, yet they have inadequate documentation.

This is not the first time that this issue is coming up. In January, our sister paper, Malawi News reported that there were 2,000 Malawians who were arrested last year and some were repatriated between November and December and 1,235 remained.

The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) intervened in the repatriation of deported Malawians since by then South African government had halted the deportation indefinitely.

The deportees were, however, given a choice whether to go for voluntary repatriation or wait for an official repatriation by the South African government which normally happens after 120 days from the time of detention.

Malawi High Commissioner to South Africa, Chrissie Kaponda, told the Mail & Guardian of South Africa early this year that 45 percent of the illegal immigrants being held at Lindela were from Malawi.

She also said despite lacking proper documentation, Malawians are flocking to South Africa “every day and the numbers are growing.”

“Most of them say they want to find jobs, yet they lack proper documentation. The situation is very worrisome,” Kaponda said.

In the repatriation process, the South African government provides transportation and security for the transfer of people to their countries of origin.

“It is easier to repatriate illegal migrants to countries with which South Africa shares physical borders. Air transport is expensive. It costs over R1.2 million just for 100 illegal migrants to reach Malawi,” she said.

Kaponda also said initially, the repatriations were done by flight but this was stopped because of the worsening economic climate in South Africa.

A month ago, 82 Malawians from Chilipa in Mangoci were caught travelling in a closed van to South Africa. Twenty four of them were children the youngest being 11 years old

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