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News: Malawi police discover mass grave suspected to contain bodies of Ethiopian nationals

In May this year the Malawi Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services in central region said it was repatriating 114 Ethiopian nationals who have served their custodial sentences. Photo: Malawi24

Addis Abeba – Malawi media quoted the local police that the police have discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 25 migrants who are suspected to be Ethiopian nationals.

“The grave was discovered late on Tuesday but we cordoned it off and started exhuming today. So far, we have discovered 25 bodies,” AFP quoted Peter Kalaya, police spokesperson, as saying. According to the reports, the police suspected that the victims were being transported to South Africa via Malawi. Local people in Mzimba area, around 250km north of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, informed the local police about the mass grave, which is believed to be less than one month.

According to Malawi24, police in the Northern Region say between January and September this year, they have intercepted 221 migrants, 186 of whom were Ethiopian nationals. The police said they were investigating the case.

In June this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that more than 500 Ethiopian migrants who were stranded in Malawi would like to return to their communities of origin, according to a verification exercise conducted by the Ethiopian authorities with support from the IOM.

Malawi is a country of transit located on the overland route to South Africa, also known as the ‘Southern Route’. According to the IOM, the route is mainly used by irregular migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia looking to find economic opportunities as far down as Cape Town. Hence, they have to travel through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Mozambique before entering South Africa.

A study released by IOM in May found the ‘Southern Route’ to be fraught with significant protection risks due to the long distance traveled, the multiple border crossings, the reliance on brokers and the switching of intermediaries along the way.

In 2015, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) alerted that more than “200 migrants, the majority of them from Ethiopia, are currently incarcerated in Malawi prisons because of their undocumented status. Most were on their way to South Africa,” the medical charity said. The migrants are often detained in harsh conditions. AS

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