10 Ethiopian illegal immigrants convicted, fined $300 each

Leonard Ncube, [email protected] 

TEN Ethiopians who were raided at a house in Victoria Falls after illegally entering the country before attempting to escape from police custody have been fined US$300 each.

They will each be jailed three months in default.

Abar Dutamo (18), Tadila Ataga (18), Dafti Mitiko (18), Teketel Meaberu (18), Kafala Sode (18), Mulato Habtamu (25), Dereje Daneala (18), Muradini Hamidala (18), Eyasu Hele (18), and Tabaso Eshita (18), all from Hossana Town in the East African country, illegally entered the country just before Christmas Day. 

They were taken to House Number 963 in Aerodrome where they were kept as a hideout waiting to be taken to their destination in South Africa before police fished them out. The case exposes potential human trafficking and points to prevalence of irregular migration in the region, as well as porous borders and the existence of well-connected syndicates of bogus employment agents and human traffickers that operate across borders.

According to the testimony by the 10 in court, they were about 25 when they left Ethiopia and were loaded in a container truck after being promised jobs by suspected bogus employment agents who had promised to give them travel documents, jobs, and accommodation upon reaching South Africa and would pay the cost of everything in instalments from their salaries.

All the 10 had no travel documents when they were arrested in Victoria Falls on 23 December. 

They told the court that their colleagues collapsed and died along the way because of hunger while in the containers and were not aware of what the transporters did to their bodies. 

Weak and tired, 13 reached Victoria Falls and some syndicate members took them to a house in Aerodrome where they were kept waiting to proceed with the journey before police swooped on them.

Three successfully escaped and are still at large while the 10 were arrested and taken to court 

People who welcomed and helped them illegally cross the border as well as those that looked after them at number 963 were not arrested.

The 10 would have been transported by road via Bulawayo by some human trafficking transporters, who are known in Victoria Falls. This comes as southern African member states are trying to come up with common migration laws to protect their citizens and migrants.

The 10 pleaded guilty to entering and remaining in Zimbabwe without a valid permit, and escaping from lawful custody when they appeared before Victoria Falls magistrate Mr Gift Manyika on Monday.

Their trial delayed to start as the court sought the services of an interpreter who could speak Ethiopian language.

Each was fined US$200 on the first count and in default two months in prison and US$100 or one month in jail on the second count.

Prosecuting, Mrs Portia Mhlanga-Moyo said on 20 December 2023 information was gathered that the 10 were being housed at house number 963 Aerodrome.

“Police officers teamed up and proceeded to the said address and found them in a cottage. Police arrested the 10 together with three others who are still at large.

“Upon arrest it was discovered that the three had no travel documents or permit which allowed them to remain in Zimbabwe. They tried to escape by fleeing from police who were escorting them,” the court was told.

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