South Africa has deported more than 250 Zimbabweans this week and may expel twice as many by this weekend.
While officials from South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs say they are deporting only undocumented aliens – so-called border jumpers who recently entered South Africa illegally – one non-governmental organization suggests that others are being unjustly removed.
Spokesman Braam Hanekom, from People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, an immigrant rights group, states that some of those targeted for deportation are victims of sluggish bureaucracy. Many illegal Zimbabweans, he says, have yet to see their passport applications processed by Harare officials, while others have yet to see their residency applications processed by South African officials.
Since 2000, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have left for South Africa, many of whom have sought refuge from political repression by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party loyalists or were unable to survive hardships of the collapsing economy. In September of last year, South African cabinet members announced plans to terminate a 2009 deal for Zimbabwean migrants that allowed them to remain in the country without documents.
During that period more than 250,000 Zimbabweans illegally in South Africa managed to secure official documentation that enabled them to stay. However, Harare could not quickly issue passports to everyone who requested them.
The International Organization for Migration has set up reception centers at Zimbabwe’s southern border with South Africa to assist those expelled and says it can help about 600 people at any one time.