The Mozambican police have intercepted a truck carrying a container in which 155 foreigners from Ethiopia and Somalia were traveling, reports Wednesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.
One of the illegal immigrants had already died of asphyxiation, and a further 50 were in a severely weakened condition, and required medical care at the time the container was intercepted.
The truck had entered Mozambique from Malawi and was driving through Tete province on its way to the port city of Beira, where the immigrants would have been offloaded.
The police stopped the truck at a checkpoint at Matambo, in Changara district, some 20 kilometres south of Tete city.
They could hear the concealed passengers screaming, apparently from suffocation.
When the truck driver realized that the police were now aware of the “goods” he was carrying, he sped away, with the police in pursuit.
After a further 20 kilometres, the driver abandoned the truck.
The police opened the container and found 68 young Somalis and 87 Ethiopians inside.
The health authorities were called in to attend to those who were seriously ill.
The passengers had travelled for many hours from a refugee camp in Malawi inside the windowless metallic container, without any food or drinking water.
The Tete police told reporters they hope to deport the group back to Malawi.
They will be the second group of illegal foreigners to be repatriated to Malawi in less than a week.
Another 98 were caught Friday crossing the border at Zobue, also in Tete, in another truck.
In both cases, the police confirmed that the drivers, both of Malawian nationality, managed to run away, but the companies for which they are working have provided the necessary information to have them arrested, and have offered to cooperate with the police.
The owners of those companies, though admitting that the trucks were theirs, denied any involvement in the business of transporting illegal immigrants.