Zimbabwean police have detained 86 Malawians suspected trying to cross into South Africa illegally as cases of human trafficking continue to rise.
Zimbabwe is a major transit corridor for African immigrants trying to reach South Africa, the continent’s major economy, to seek refuge.
Police on Friday said the 86 Malawians were found in a house in a town near Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique.
Another three Malawians were arrested while trying to leave Zimbabwe after entering the country from South Africa.
“On August 15, police in Murewa arrested 86 foreign nationals comprising 76 males and 10 females for entering the country without travel documents,” the Zimbabwe Republic Police said in a statement.
“The suspects were intercepted at a house in a medium density suburb in Murewa after being assisted by a local transporter.
“On August 16, detectives in Murewa arrested three foreign nationals in Murewa who were hitch-hiking from South Africa en-route to (the) Nyamapanda (border post) without following laid down custom and exercise procedures.”
Police said another group of 82 illegal immigrants were arrested near the city of Gweru in central Zimbabwe on August 17, but he did not state their nationalities.
In its monitoring report for July, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Zimbabwe said it had observed that most of the people who left the country that month used illegal entry points.
“The majority of outflows were through irregular crossing points whilst inflows were mostly through formal crossing points,” IOM said in the report released on Friday.
“Out of the total immigrants observed, 58 percent were males whilst 46 percent were females.
“Seventy percent of these migrants were between the ages of 20 and 49 with the majority travelling to conduct short-term local economic activities.”
At the height of national lockdowns to control the spread of Covid-19, IOM said it had identified at least 21 illegal crossing points along the porous border between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
In June, Zimbabwean police and their South African counterparts destroyed a makeshift bridge that was constructed over the Limpopo River, which was used by smugglers and illegal immigrants.
It was the second makeshift bridge to be destroyed along the same river this year.