South Africa News

69 undocumented foreign nationals escaped repatriation centre in Krugersdorp

A total of 69 undocumented foreign nationals awaiting deportation escaped from the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, on Sunday. Only one has been re-arrested since.

A second attempt was made by deportees on Monday, though this failed. One foreign national succumbed to injuries that occurred during this attempt.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed this only on Wednesday, the day after news broke of the incidents, which are now being investigated.

“The incident took place around 11.50 am on Sunday, 17 March 2024. Lindela is managed by facilities management company EnvironMongz, which also provides security services on behalf of the department,” spokesperson Siya Qoza said.

“Our investigation revealed there was an altercation between the inmates and EnvironMongz management and its security team. It was during this altercation that 69 undocumented foreign nationals escaped.

‘More could have been done’

“The Department is unhappy about the circumstances and the manner under which this escape happened because we believe enough could have been done by the management company and its security to prevent this incident.

“Hence, the contract is being scrutinised to decide on the best course of action.”

Qoza said the department has since taken over the access control and other security functions at the facility. This includes placing a different security company on watch at the gate while the matter is being investigated.

“At the time of the escape, the facility was holding 1 521 undocumented foreign nationals who were awaiting deportation.

“The 69 escapees were part of this group. Most of these 1 521 undocumented foreign nationals were scheduled to be deported this week.

“Despite the event that took place over the weekend, the department is still proceeding with this scheduled plan to deport to countries of origin. The scheduled deportations are to Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.”

More than half of the escapees were from Tanzania.

“As part of this scheduled plan, 622 deportees have departed the facility. Last week, the department deported 1 050 individuals to Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.”

Nationalities of escapees:

• Tanzania: 38
• Malawi: 14
• Zimbabwe: 5
• Mozambique: 3
• Burundi: 3
• Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): 3
• Lesotho: 2
• Nigeria: 1

Second attempt made

The department said EnviroMongz had informed it of a second attempted escape occurring on Monday morning, which was “immediately brought under control”.

“One of the deportees succumbed to injuries that allegedly happened during the second attempted escape.

“This incident is now the subject of police investigation in addition to how the escape of 17 March 2024 occurred.

“As part of the probe, police have arrested two security officers and they are in custody.

“Meanwhile, the Department is working with other law enforcement agencies to track down the escapees. As a result, one escapee has already been re-arrested.”

Not the first time

In May 2020, 37 foreign nationals escaped from the same Krugersdorp facility.

During this time, the government showed its intentions of cancelling underperforming service providers at the centre as well as buying it so Home Affairs could manage the facility.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi alleged that the 2020 escape was an inside job, facilitated by the security guards employed at the facility who were protesting against poor working conditions.

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