Maputo — The Mozambican authorities repatriated 53 illegal Ethiopian immigrants from Maputo International Airport on Wednesday.
All of them were detained in December, according to a report in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”. 40 were discovered in the bush in the central district of Gorongosa, and the others were arrested in other parts of the country.
All of them had made the long overland journey from Ethiopia, via Kenya and Tanzania. They claimed they were in search of jobs and better living conditions. Although they did not say so explicitly, it is highly likely that their intended final destination was not Mozambique, but South Africa.
Some of the Ethiopians said they had been travelling for six weeks. One, Simion Sidebo, said he had paid 90,000 Ethiopian birr (about 3,280 US dollars) to transporters - a huge sum, given that the minimum monthly wage in the Ethiopian public sector is just 420 birr.
Sidebo said that most of the journey through Mozambique took place at night “in order to avoid the police and the immigration authorities”.
The repatriation was paid for by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), under a cooperation agreement with the Mozambican immigration service (SENAMI). IOM also provided the Ethiopians with food and with medical care, since many of them were suffering from diseases such as malaria.