Mozambique: Driver and guide jailed over death of 64 Ethiopian immigrants

By Jorge Joaquim

Two of the seven people accused of the accidental killing of 64 illegal immigrants from Ethiopia were sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment in Mozambique. The immigrants, 81 in total, were heading for South Africa in the back of a lorry, but most of them were found to have suffocated.

Tete is roughly 4,000 kms south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, and 1,400 kms north of Pretoria, in South Africa.

Silva Nhome, one of those jailed, was the driver of the lorry, and Aiube Juliasse was the supposed guide in the case. The court decided to acquit the other five defendants, including two Mozambican police officers, due to lack of evidence.

Mozambique is located along a migration corridor, the so-called Southern Route, frequently used by migrants from East and the Horn of Africa to travel to South Africa in search of protection, economic and education opportunities. IOM Mozambique has helped more than 400 Ethiopians voluntarily return home since 2018.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), in 2019 South Africa was home to about 4.2 million migrants, and 290,000 asylum seekers and refugees. Zimbabwe, Somalia, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia were the main source countries.

Highway deaths, mainly caused by vehicular accidents, claimed the lives of nearly 70 migrants in Mozambique over the last five years, according to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project.

Most were Ethiopians bound for South Africa, although in one incident in 2017, 11 Malawians died in an accident in Tsangano, just inside Mozambique’s border with Malawi. The following year, 12 Ethiopians died and 15 were injured in another crash, also in Tsangano. IOM recorded no deaths of migrants in Mozambique in 2019.

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