South Africa + 1 more

South Africa deports 1 800 Zimbabweans

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By Ntando Ncube

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa on Wednesday deported about 1 800 illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe with another 3 000 said to be still awaiting deportation from Lindela Repatriation Centre in Johannesburg.

A senior Home Affairs Ministry official, Jacky Mashapu told ZimOnline that the Zimbabweans were deported for breaching South Africa's immigration laws as most of them had entered the country without valid visas and passports.

"Yes we deported them last night (Wednesday) because our mandate is to deport all the illegal immigrants. We don't just deport Zimbabweans but all the nationalities who are here illegally," said Mashapu.

Earlier this year, South African government said there had been a sharp upsurge in the number of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe fleeing hunger and political persecution from their country.

Pretoria said more than 50 000 Zimbabweans had been deported between January and March this year.

An immigration official who refused to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media said there were about 3 000 more Zimbabweans who are awaiting deportation at Lindela.

South Africa remains the destination of choice for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean economic refugees.

On Thursday, President Thabo Mbeki admitted that his government was fighting a losing battle over the issue of illegal immigrants with most of the deported immigrants returning to South Africa within weeks of their deportation.