Illegal immigrants spark Ebola fears

Langton Nyakwenda

The Ministry of Health and Child Care will soon investigate the illegal entry of 56 Ethiopians into Zimbabwe last week following fears that illegal immigrants are exposing the country to Ebola.

The Ethiopians were found in Seke communal lands early Tuesday morning after what appeared like an aborted human trafficking mission.

They appeared in court on Wednesday, charged with unlawfully entering and remaining in Zimbabwe without permits.

They are expected back in court soon. Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr Paul Chimedza said, “The details I have at the moment are still sketchy. However, the case deserves special attention. We will trace where they came from.

“We will also consider the route they used until they reached Zimbabwe. If there is any risk of Ebola, then we will carry out all the necessary procedures.”

When The Sunday Mail visited Seke on Tuesday, shocked villagers had detained three of the East Africans at Kunaka Shopping Centre.

Police later ferried the trio to a nearby post.

This was after a larger group had already been rounded up. However, there were reports that many others escaped. Villagers implored authorities to speedily determine whether or not the illegal immigrants are Ebola-free.

Mr Wisdom Masoja, a local businessman who assisted with food and communication means, said the illegal immigrants were passing through Zimbabwe on their way to South Africa.

“One of them asked for a mobile phone. He then dialled a South African number and kept shouting ‘boss, boss’ on the phone, suggesting they might have connections in that country.”

Nicholas Masoja, one of the first villagers to come across the Ethiopians narrated, “I woke up at around 6am to do my chores. I then saw some men approaching my homestead. They looked weary. I immediately realised they were foreigners, none of them spoke a single English word. They used sign language.

“I then engaged the village elders who resolved we take them to the nearest shopping centre and call the police. However, a number of them escaped down that river. My only worry is that a lot of them are still scattered across Seke.”

Since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, most countries are taking precautions with special focus on immigration.

Chad, Senegal and Liberia closed their borders while South Africa has banned travellers from affected regions.

Airlines such as Air Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria’s Arik Air, Togo’s ASKY Airlines, British Airways, Emirates Airlines and Kenya Airways cancelled flights to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the hardest hit countries.

Zimbabwe has instituted various measures, including screening at ports of entry.

Travellers from West Africa are quarantined and monitored for 21 days.

However, the Southern African nation is still prone to an Ebola outbreak as scores of locals and foreigners enter and exit the country through illegal crossing points.

A recent parliamentary report on peace and security revealed that Zimbabwe has 51 “informal border posts” against 18 formal ones.

In addition, the number of airstrips on farms and private properties far exceeds the country’s airports.

‘Zim borders porous’

Sunday Mail Reporter

Cross Border Traders’ Association president Mr Killer Zivhu says national security agents should closely monitor all the country’s borders following reports of 51 informal border posts. “Our boundaries are too porous, especially on the Manicaland side where people just walk in and out unnoticed. We cannot let that situation continue because it poses serious security risks. These days, there is the deadly Ebola virus.

“We also appeal to Government to beef up security along all borders some of which do not even have fences,” Mr Zivhu said.

In July, Parliament’s Thematic Committee on Peace and Security reported that Zimbabwe has 51 informal border posts against 18 official ones.

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