Seven ex-convicts who completed sentences in South African jails were yesterday deported via Beitbridge along with 213 other people who had been arrested for violating Pretoria’s immigration laws.
The group arrived in the country around midday in a convoy of hired four buses.
It is understood that the move to deport the Zimbabweans is part of South Africa’s plans to decongest migrants holding centres and minimise the rate of new Covid-19 infections.
Most of those deported were undocumented or had used fake travel documents while others had overstayed.
Zimbabweans are allowed a stay of not more than 90 days within a period of 12 months.
However, many people are in the habit of extending their stays illegally and are routinely rounded up by the police or immigration officers.
Yesterday’s group is the largest contingent of deportees to arrive via Beitbridge since the beginning of the year.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to Johannesburg, Mrs Melody Chaurura, said their hosts have not been able to deport people in the last two weeks and that the current group had been detained at Lindela Holding Centre in Gauteng.
She said on average less than 100 people were being sent home from South Africa weekly.
“This is the largest group so far. It’s part of the routine weekly deportations.
“The high number is due to the fact that no deportations were carried out two weeks prior,” said Mrs Chaurura.
Upon arrival at Beitbridge, the deportees were screened by the border and health authorities and also tested for Covid-19.
Those that will test positive, will be isolated, while those testing negative will be sent to their respective homes for quarantine.
With respect to the ex-cons, they are also profiled by the police.
By the end of the day yesterday, the deportees were still being processed.
The Herald is reliably informed that between January and June this year 3 203 Zimbabweans were deported from South Africa by road.
In addition, an average of 9 000 are rounded up for various immigration offences and deported via Beitbridge annually.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the deportees and returnees are being processed at the Beitbridge Quarantine, Isolation and Transit Centre.
So far, over 18 000 Zimbabweans, among them, deportees from Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa have passed through the centre between March 2020 and June 2021.
Meanwhile, Provincial Social Development Officer Mr Criswell Nyakudya said Government is now gradually re-opening quarantine and isolation centres to accommodate deportees and Zimbabwean returnees coming in through Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts.
The centres had been closed as the country moved into Level 2 Covid-19 lockdown. The Herald