The police arrested more than 100 undocumented foreigners – who live in a single house in the east of Johannesburg – on Friday.
“A total of 98 Ethiopians and four Malawians, including 10-year-old children, were found in a house in Primrose, about 14 km east of Johannesburg, in terrible conditions,” says Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of the Interior.
“Some of them were taken to hospital for treatment for malnutrition and dehydration.”
Motsoaledi says the Ethiopian who runs the house has been a refugee in the country since 2019 after renewing his status four times.
“From what I can understand, the people are brought here to run spaza shops right across the country,” he added.
Motsoaledi confirmed that four passports were found in the house, with no sign of a South African visa.
“All 102 foreigners were crammed into one house with poor living conditions and no furniture, just blankets all over the floor, dirty pots and dirty plates.”
Motsoaledi says that some of the foreigners are “clearly victims” and that a “human trafficking syndicate may be involved”.
“I think the house is used to bring people into the country and distribute them to… whoever wants cheap labour,” says Motsoaledi.
According to the minister, the processing of the illegal migrants will be a protracted process, and the department will work with social services to determine if any of the suspects have been trafficked in the country.
South Africa is suffering from a wave of illegal migration caused by the economic woes in its neighboring countries.
Many illegal immigrants come from countries such as Malawi, Lesotho and other parts of Africa, but most are from Zimbabwe.
Police have recently stepped up operations in an effort to catch undocumented migrants.