Illegal immigrants haunt North East District

FRANCISTOWN: The influx of illegal immigrants into the North East District (NED) is worsening the cross-border crime situation, something some Dikgosi have come to realise.

Botswana and Zimbabwe share a long border with villages in the NED where the influx of illegal immigrants is said to be on the increase and so does its terrible twin of crime, especially committed by some of the arrivals. Although the country ensures that scores of illegal immigrants are deported back to Zimbabwe every week, desperate Zimbabweans continue to find their way back into the country, apparently  running away from the brutal economic conditions back home. Realising the seriousness of this problem, local authorities (Dikgosi) of villages situated along the border resolved to partner with their Zimbabwean counterparts to fight cross-border crime.Kgosi Tapson Jackalas of Jackalas 1 village, who is spearheading this partnership, told Mmegi that despite their efforts to fight cross-border crime, the flow of illegal immigrants continues to be a challenge.

“Even though crime is still taking place, the statistics have gone down as compared to the past and we are hopeful to win the battle if we can address the influx,” said Jackalas.He said that due to the struggling economy back home, Zimbabweans entered the country at ungazetted points to do shopping and in search of job opportunities. Others come here to commit crimes.

Jackalas stated that as long as Zimbabwe’s economic situation did not change, he feared that Botswana would continue to face high influx of illegal immigrants because they share the borderline. “For years, villages located along the border have been living in terror of cross-border criminals who steal people’s properties and take them into Zimbabwe,” said Jackalas, when addressing the NED full council meeting recently. For her part,  council chairperson Florah Mpetsane also expressed concern at the high influx of illegal immigrants.

Mpetsane pleaded with councillors to assist in educating members of the community to stop harbouring their relatives from Zimbabwe because doing so is against the law.

Delivering the District Development Committee (DDC), the district development officer, Onkokame Mafoko, shared Mpetsane’s sentiments saying the influx of illegal immigrants is a worry in the district.

Mafoko revealed that some Batswana continue to assist illegal immigrants to get residence and work permits illegally in the country.

Mafoko stated that in last month, 26 Zimbabweans - 14 men, eight women and four minors - were arrested during a joint operation conducted at Kalakamati junction and Mulambakwena village and they were all repatriated. He said that they continue to conduct public education on harbouring of illegal immigrants.

Acting Officer Commanding Superintendent Oratile Setswalo also raised similar concerns saying despite their regular operations, they are failing to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country. “We do not know how they manage to cross into Botswana but when doing patrols within villages and in Francistown we always arrest them in high numbers,” said Setswalo.He revealed that during the first quarter from April to June, they arrested 722 illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe and 300 of them were arraigned at customary courts while the rest were deported.Setswalo stated that in the second quarter from July to September 3,796 illegal immigrants were arrested in which 708 were arraigned before the customary courts. “Amongst that number 2,500 were fined money not less than P1,000 for admission of guilty with the rest being minors who were deported with their parents,” said Setswalo.

He strongly linked high crime rates to illegal immigrants.

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