Deportations of foreign nationals loom

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

HOME Affairs Minister, Motlalentoa Letsosa, says the government has begun deporting foreign nationals who came into the country illegally. He said the government was conducting operations to discover more illegal immigrants and “very soon there will be large scale deportations”.

Addressing a press conference in Maseru yesterday, Mr Letsosa said the deportations already underway followed the arrests of foreign nationals, mostly from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

He said they suspected that the foreigners’ illegal entry and stay in the country had been corruptly facilitated by officials at the Ministry of Trade’s One Stop Business Centre which facilitates permits for foreign investors.

He said among those who had already been deported were Cameroonians and Ethiopians.

“We are still on the lookout for a Bangladesh national who was detained at the Moshoeshoe I International Airport on 13 December 2020 before he mysteriously disappeared into thin air,” Mr Letsosa said, adding, “The matter has been reported to the police and a case has been opened”.

He said some of the nationals were arrested during a recent campaign to “clean the country” of illegal immigrants.

“Some of them were discovered in Qacha’s Nek. They did not even have their passports saying these had been surrendered to their ‘big bosses’ who brought them into the country. These people were said to be important managers of shops and other businesses but they looked too shabby for that. It therefore shows that there is a lot that still needs to be done to find others who have come into the country illegally. There will be more deportations of the illegal foreign nationals,” Mr Letsosa said.

Just over a fortnight ago, the government deported three Pakistanis and a Bangladesh national in a move Mr Letsosa said was aimed at combatting human trafficking.

The four are Shamaz Idrees, Nasir Abbas, Shahzad Khan (all Pakistanis) and Hussain Sohag (a Bangladeshi).

“Their permits were authentic but the businesses they claimed to own or work for are non-existent.

“We did our own investigations and didn’t find any of the mentioned businesses hence we deported them,” Mr Letsosa said at the time.

Mr Letsosa is also deputy leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), the second biggest party after the All Basotho Convention (ABC) in the current governing coalition.

The DC faces allegations of victimising an immigration officer, ’Mapeete Jonathan, for refusing to allow two Pakistanis to enter the country illegally back in March this year.

Her allegations have however, been dismissed by Mr Letsosa who said his party and government were committed to ending the scourge of human trafficking which has seen the country being placed in tier three—the lowest tier in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for 2020.

Such pressure from the US government has pushed the government to take decisive measures against suspected trafficking activities.

Addressing the media this week, Mr Letsosa said they were working on a strategic plan for the years 2021 to 2025 to “enhance our efforts to fight trafficking in persons”.

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