Congolese refugees undergo Covid-19 tests

The Ministry of Health and Child Care is currently conducting Covid-19 tests on a group of 104 Congolese migrants found holed up in a house in Hillside Suburb, Bulawayo.

The migrants, including young children who are still at Hillside Police Station in Bulawayo, allegedly escaped from Tongogara refugee camp in Chipinge and are believed to have been in transit to their home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) via Botswana.

So far, half have been tested and no positive Covid-19 result was recorded as yet.

When a CITE news crew visited the house in question on Wednesday morning, police officers were seen taking pictures of the property.

In an interview with CITE, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the migrants were still undergoing Covid-19 tests before the immigration departments could assist.

“They are currently being tested for Covid -19 by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Thereafter, Immigration will assist to find a suitable location whilst all modalities are being followed. As of yesterday, they are at Hillside Police Station,” he said.

Some of the migrants were seen by this publication midday on Wednesday at Hillside Police Station, with some women doing their laundry outside in the garden.

Acting Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo, also confirmed health personnel were conducting Covid-19 tests on the refugees, noting so far no one had tested positive.

“We started testing them yesterday (Tuesday) at the police station and the testing process is continuous. We tested almost half and from yesterday’s tests we did not see any positive result for Covid-19,” he said.

“We understand this group has been in the country for some time now. They are not new people in the country.”

However, Ass. Comm Nyathi could not divulge more details on the status of the refugees saying investigations were still in progress.

“As police, we are conducting investigations and we are working together with other stakeholders who include the Immigration Department and the Ministry of Health and Child Care. All other processes are being conducted in view of finding out how they moved from one place to another,” said the national police spokesperson.

Contacted for comment, Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima, said his ministry awaited the outcome of the police investigation before they could act.

“Once they (the foreign nationals) are in police custody, it is now a law enforcement matter. We will await the outcome of that law enforcement phase,” he said.

The foreign nationals were intercepted Tuesday after police received a tip-off and swooped in on the house where they were being kept.

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