MAPUTO, Mozambique – More than 400 Mozambicans have returned home after being deported from neighboring South Africa, many spending their first night in the country sleeping in tents at a local repatriation center.
In South Africa, they were arrested when they were found without proper documents, some told the Associated Press. In nationwide raids, South African police arrested about 750 immigrants living in the country illegally.
“The police first asked for my ID, which I didn’t have,” said Jose Macuacua, who said he was not allowed to gather his belongings before he was taken to the Lindela Repatriation Center. There he met dozens of other immigrants from other southern African countries, like Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Macuacua, 26, said he entered South Africa illegally when guards at a border post failed to check if he had a passport. He lived in South Africa for two years, selling cellphone SIM cards, he said.
Maria da Gloria Mathe said she and her husband lived in the city of Rustenburg, in the South African platinum mining area, for four years, where they sold clothes.
“We collected what we could in a hurry, because the police were standing at the door of our shop,” said Mathe.
The deportations come weeks after anti-foreigner attacks in South Africa in which seven people were killed, including at least one Mozambican. While South African officials condemned the violence, they have also sought to address complaints that immigrants living in the country illegally are taking employment opportunities from South Africans.
But the Mozambican government said it was surprised by the deportations.
“We expected to hold talks with the South Africans to discuss the problem, but we just saw people being arrested,” said Mozambique’s Foreign and Cooperation Minister, Oldemiro Baloi.
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