Maputo: Mozambican Police are holding a total of 133 illegal immigrants of Asian origin apparently being smuggled into the country via Maputo International Airport, the private TV channel STV reported on Wednesday.
Mozambique in recent years has become a transit point for immigrants from Asian and African countries en route to South Africa.
Immigration authorities discovered on Tuesday 63 Bangladeshi nationals, in possession of forged entry visas, arriving on an Ethiopian Airline flight.
A further group of 70 men were found on Wednesday in a purportedly transit house at a nearby neighborhood by the police forces following a tip off from residents in the area.
‘This phenomenon has worsened since the Ethiopian Airlines began operating in our airspace, just a month ago. Most of its passengers are of Asian origin’, a Migration Officer, Antonio Paulino told the station.
‘During the migration checking process, it was found that at least these 63 were carrying false visas. We tried to immediately return them to the plane, but the airline refused to cooperate and the airplane just took off, leaving them behind’, he said.
However, Hailu Woldekidanu, Ethiopian Airlines director in Mozambique, distanced himself from any involvement by his company in illegal transport of Asians to Mozambique.
We are an air company that transports passengers. They showed the passports with entry visas into the Republic of Mozambique, and we can not ignore them. They come from different countries. Our responsibility is to transport them, and we did it because they paid the tickets and all expenses incurred’, he said.
Illegal immigrants who cannot make it to South Africa often end up establishing businesses within Mozambique while waiting for a better opportunity to cross the border.
The northern region of Mozambique has been the main entry point. The majority, of Somali and Ethiopian origin, enter the country by boat.