SEVEN ex-convicts who completed prison terms in South Africa were yesterday deported via Beitbridge along with 213 other Zimbabweans who had been raided for violating Pretoria’s immigration laws.
The group arrived in the country around midday in a convoy of hired four buses.
The move to deport the Zimbabweans is part of the South Africans’ plans to decongest migrants holding centres and minimise the rate of new Covid19 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 (three months) within a period of 12 months.
However, most of those who are there on a less formal arrangement are in the habit of extending their stay 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 group had been detained at Lindela Holding Centre in Gauteng province.
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 Covid19.
Those that will test positive for the condition, will be put in isolation, 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.
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 Covid19 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, the Provincial Social Development Officer Mr Criswell Nyakudya said the Government was 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 Covid19 lockdown level 2.
Mr Nyakudya said prior to the latest development, they had left only the Beitbridge and Esigodini quarantine centres open.
“We will open the various quarantine centres in the country depending on the demand for space,” he said.