Thupeyo Muleya–Beitbridge Bureau
The Department of Immigration, working with other border agencies at Beitbridge Border Post, is tightening vetting of travellers to curb illegal migration between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The border authorities are increasing surveillance and screening of travellers to re-establish the integrity of Sadc’s busiest inland port of entry.
Cases of illegal migration have become rife, especially at the main border and several illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River, whose riverbed is dry, making it easier for smugglers and border jumpers to navigate.
During the rainy season, the water becomes the natural barrier to the illegal movement of people and goods. Statistics from the Department of Immigration show that an average of 80 people are intercepted daily while attempting to illegally cross the border.
In addition, at least 10 people are refused entry into Zimbabwe, while four are stopped from entering South Africa daily for failure to comply with Covid-19 regulations.
Assistant Regional Immigration officer-in-charge at Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube, said they were having a number of compliance and enforcement operations.
“In June, we intercepted 214 illegal migrants and 226 in July,” he said. “We also refused entry to 218 people in those two months.
“A total of 190 were also refused entry into South Africa for violating Covid-19 regulations governing the movement of people across the borders.” Mr Ncube said among those refused entry into Zimbabwe were citizens from Australia, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, DRC, Britain, Israel, Mozambique, Rwanda, India, Denmark and Malawi.
He said those intercepted for border jumping had been sent to court for prosecution, while others were being fined for violating a section of the Immigration Act.
Between August 18 and 21 a total of 299 illegal migrants were arrested during a joint operation with the police. These have been handed over to the police for further management.
“Our enforcement and compliance team is on the ground every day, focusing on all specific red zones that we have established,” said Mr Ncube. When Zimbabwe started implementing Covid-19 protocols, passenger traffic through the border was suspended, leaving only commercial cargo, returning residents, bodies for burial and diplomats on Government business allowed to use the land border posts. This then saw a number of people who fall out of these categories using illegal crossing points to enter and leave the country through the main border and the Limpopo River.
To minimise the smuggling, security was tightened to enforce compliance.
However, the migrants keep shifting the crossing points forcing the Government to introduce helicopter patrols along the Limpopo River.