Concern Grows For Detained Somali Refugees In Beitbridge

The refugees were arrested by Zimbabwe’s anti-crime squad and border guards two weeks ago while trying to cross into South Africa using illegal routes.The Somalis some of whom have not eaten for many days go through hell crossing porous Central African borders into Zimbabwe where they rest for days before proceding to South Africa-the continent’s economic powerhouse.

South Africa itself is host to thousands of Somali refugees the majority of whom live in Cape Town.According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees the war in Somalia has driven thousands of refugees into exile.Some never reach their destinations and die on the way especially in the harsh conditions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

There are reports that some of the Somalis have been admitted at the Beitbridge Hospital suffering from malaria and other diseases.One of the refugees was reported to have died at a Zimbabwean police station before being taken to hospital.Chief Police Superintendent Hosiah Mukombero who is in charge of Beitbridge town confirmed to Journalists the death of one of the refugees.

Those who had been arrested were taken to the prison at Beitbridge, where they are waiting to be transported to Tongogara refugee camp. The camp has more than 1800 refugees from all over Africa. The challenging economic and political environment places constraints on the implementation of humanitarian programmes in Zimbabwe. With most refugees restricted to Tongogara camp, the possibilities for moving away from dependence on humanitarian assistance and towards self-reliance are limited.

Sending refugees back from South Africa puts a strain on Zimbabwe’s capacity, especially at a time of political uncertainty . South African Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told the Times that his country has to uphold international law when dealing with refugees.

“It means they should have handed themselves to authorities in the first country they got to after fleeing Somalia. From there they can work on applying for asylum, and we would address the situation. At the moment these people do not even have identification particulars so there is no reason why we should take them in,” he said.
 
Other Somali refugees in Beitbridge are receiving assistance from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) which has offices and temporary holding centres in the border town.