SIXTY-NINE foreign nationals, among them five Zimbabweans, on Wednesday escaped from Lindela Repatriation Centre –under South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs– where they were staying while awaiting deportation.

The escapees were part of the 1 521 inmates held at the centre under private management in Krugersdorp.

The group of fugitives also consisted of 38 from Tanzania, 14 from Malawi, two Mozambicans, Lesotho (2), Burundi (3), DRC (3) and one from Nigeria.

 SA’s government has already moved in to avert the situation while there is a likelihood that the contract of the private facilities management company called EnvironMongz might be cancelled.

 In a statement, signed by Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza, the Department of Home Affairs confirmed the escape triggered by an altercation between inmates and the contracted management of the centre.

“The Department of Home Affairs wishes to confirm an adverse incident whereby 69 undocumented foreign nationals who were awaiting deportation escaped from the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp,” read part of the statement.

“The incident took place around 11:50 on Sunday, 17 March 2024. Lindela is managed by facilities management company, EnvironMongz, which also provides security services on behalf of the Department.”

Investigations revealed that 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.

“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.”

“As an immediate intervention, the Department has taken over the access control and other security functions at the facility by putting a different security company at the gate while the matter is still being investigated,” said the division.

Most of the 1 521 undocumented foreign nationals were scheduled to be deported this week, a programme that will still be undertaken as the search for the escapees progresses.

“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,” said the statement.

 As part of this scheduled plan, 622 deportees are to be repatriated to their countries.

According to the statement, SA last week deported 1 050 undocumented foreigners to Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

However, prior to the latest escape, it has emerged that EnviroMongz had informed the Department of Home Affairs about previous escape attempts which resulted in the death of an inmate.

Meanwhile, the Department is working with other law enforcement agencies to track down the escapees with one already having been re-arrested. — NewsDay

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