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IOM repatriates Zims from SA

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On May 27, the IOM repatriated the first group of 33 Zimbabweans, who included teachers and nurses

This was  after a request by a Johannesburg-based humanitarian organisation - the Southern African Women for Immigration Affairs (SAWIMA), which had been approached by the professionals after they had found themselves stranded in South Africa for the past few years without finding employment.

Most of the repatriates had been part of the estimated 4 000 Zimbabwean economic refugees living in an around Johannesburg’s Central Methodist church, according to SAWIMA.

“The second bus left on Wednesday, but several other Zimbabweans were left behind as only 65 could be taken,” said SAWIMA’s Para-legal officer, David Dube, who oversaw the repatriation.

He expected the third IOM-sponsored bus to transport another 65 Zimbabweans this Friday (July 3), adding that more than 200 Zimbabweans had already been registered for repatriation, as they join the stampede out of their country’s otherwise more prosperous southern neighbour.

“We have since stopped registering more people, despite about 10 of them visiting our offices daily to try and register.

“The IOM has told us that it could only provide us with two buses at the moment and that means that many will be left behind.”

Dube said that his organisation was already seeking alternative transport for the remaining Zimbabweans, before re-opening registration.

“Once we register these people, we would have given them false hope that there will be transport for them soon and they will, as what happened with the professionals, come here everyday to find out if we have managed to source buses for them,” he said.

“While appreciating what the IOM has done, we would now like to appeal to Zimbabwean businessmen and any other well-wishers to come forward and assist take these remaining people home. There is desperation among them and we would like them to be assisted with just transport because they have told us that they do not care even if they do not get any tokens.”

Dube said that, to cater for those in desperate need for repatriation, his organisation had prioritised nursing women, unaccompanied minors, the elderly and the sick for repatriation.

Other than lack of employment, which has left most of the refugees in conditions of near-destitution, the SAWIMA official attributed the sudden desperation to return home to the chilly weather that is currently bedeviling Johannesburg.

Some of the people, especially those living in and around the Methodist Church, have only one blanket to use, while sleeping on the floor, while others sleep outside due to overcrowding in the church.

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