Maputo — The Mozambican police have seized a boat containing 96 illegal immigrants, all of them Somalis, in the district of Palma in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
This boat had come from Tanzania, and had six Tanzanian crew members on board.
The Cabo Delgado provincial police commander, Vasco Lino, cited in Thursday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", said the 96 Somalis, and the boat, were being held in Palma, while the six Tanzanians were transferred to the provincial capital, Pemba where they are being questioned.
According to Lino, the case papers have already been forwarded to the public prosecutor's office. "The police have done their job", he said. "Now it's up to prosecutors to continue the case, but we have no doubt that the six sailors will be sentenced for crossing the border illegally".
Cabo Delgado has often been used as a point of illegal entry for foreigners coming from the Great Lakes region and from the Horn of Africa.
Vasco Lino said that the immigrants usually claim that they are fleeing from war in their countries of origin, but some admit that they have come to Mozambique to try to improve their living conditions. Often the immigrants are simply passing through Mozambique in an attempt to reach South Africa. The police send those they regard as genuine refugees to the Maratane refugee camp in the neighbouring province of Nampula. According to Lino, since January, over a thousand refugees mostly from Somalia have entered Mozambique through Cabo Delgado claiming to be fleeing from the war in their country.
But another factor encouraging illegal immigration in Cabo Delgado is the discovery last year of a large deposit of rubies in Nanhumbir in the Cabo Delgado district of Montepuez.