A South African flight full of 140 undocumented Malawians arrived in Lilongwe on Friday, with some of the arrivals taken straight to a temporary medical camp for coronavirus tests in the Malawian capital.A second flight of 140 Malawians from Johannesburg was expected to land at Lilongwe’s Kamuzu International Airport on Saturday, Malawi’s Transport and Public Infrastructure spokesman James Chakwera has confirmed.
According to Chakwera, any arrivals who test positive for Covid-19 would be taken to isolation centres for treatment, while those who prove negative would be released and given transport money to return to their homes.
The latest arrivals join hundreds of other Malawians who returned home from South Africa last week.
That group arrived in Malawi on 13 buses from South Africa, with 800 passengers who were deposited at a stadium in Blantyre with the intention of testing them for the disease.
However, some 400 of the returnees escaped from the stadium amid lax security, complaining that the government had abused them for their failure to provide them accommodation, food and toilets at the stadium.
International Organisation of Migration country director Mpilo Nkomo admitted that the Malawian government was ill-prepared to receive the returnees, and dumping them at the stadium with no sleeping facilities was not a solution.
Nkomo said the government should have set up isolation centres at the borders, and not let the returnees into the country to mix with populations before testing for the virus.
Responding to the charge, Malawi’s Chief Secretary to the Cabinet Lloyd Muhara said his government had noted the shortcomings, and would take measures to rectify the situation.
South Africa regularly detains young Malawians who enter the country to seek jobs but in the end overstay their month-long welcome visas as they search for jobs as manual labourers.
The undocumented are detained at Johannesburg’s notorious Lindella Detention Centre till flights are identified to fly them back to Malawi.