Immigration intercepts 48 foreigners
by Emmanuel Muwamba and Tione Andsen (Mana), 28 February 2007 - 03:03:04
The Immigration Department yesterday intercepted a fuel tanker trying to smuggle 48 Ethiopian refugees to South Africa.
The department?s public relations officer Pudensiana Makalamba said her organisation knew of the racket over the weekend and its officers were on alert at the Mwanza Border Post. ?We got information that some refugees that sought asylum in the country were about to be smuggled to South Africa aboard a tanker and we were following them,? she said.
Immigration officers intercepted the truck belonging to F.A. Lambat at 6.10 am at the border when the truck was about to cross to Mozambique en route to South Africa, she said.
?They were asylum-seekers who registered with the Luwani Refugee Camp in Mwanza and their names were yet to be approved. While there, they negotiated to be smuggled outside the country with unknown people,? Makalamba said. She said the detainees, who were then at Mwanza Police, were to be taken to Chichiri Prison where they will await deportation.
?They are young men aged between 18 and 30 but they were very weak when they came out of the tank. It would seem they were suffocating. If they had spent more than one hour [in the tank], they would have died,? she said.
Makalamba identified the tanker driver as Anold Chisamba who, she claimed, confessed involvement in the racket. She said Chisamba was arrested for human trafficking and taken to court yesterday.
The PRO said the department has been suspecting the racket but said the people involved have been using unchartered routes.
Officer-in-charge for Mwanza Irrigation Ford Phillbert Mwalweni confirmed the Ethiopians were living at Luwani Refugee Camp in Mwanza.He said they were picked at Mbemba Trading Centre using a fuel tanker belonging to a Malawian businessman.
Mwalweni explained that the Ethiopians were supposed to be dropped at Zobue in Mozambique. ?We got the tip of the move and officers were alert. The fuel tanker arrived at the border post at around 6:00 am but we were surprised to see that the tank was open on the top,? Mwalweni said, adding that his officers inspected the vehicle and discovered that there were people packed in empty fuel compartments. Mwalweni said another person at Lunzu Trading Centre was behind the whole racket.