Mail & Guardian

MSF: 300 Zimbabweans seek asylum in SA each day

13 May 2010 07:14 | Kenichi Serino

As many as 300 Zimbabweans are arriving in South Africa a day to apply for asylum at Musina in Limpopo, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on Wednesday.

"We have been told by the DHA [department of home affairs] that there are 300 people a day arriving at the DHA to apply for asylum [in Musina]," said MSF head of mission Mickael le Paih.

He described them as "newly arrived".

Le Paih said that many of the migrants are too poor to afford a passport which costs as much as R1 100 to acquire. They then have to attempt to cross the border illegally.

"While the [DHA] promised a year ago to create a special dispensation permit to ease the process for migrants crossing the border, this has never been implemented."

MSF said the number of sexual assaults reported on the Zimbabwean border has also increased by a third.

"From March 1 to May the number of cases treated were 71," said MSF nurse Mashudu Nelufule.

20 rapes per month
This meant about 20 people were raped a month, an increase from an average of 15 the previous year.

Of these victims, 45 were female and 26 were male. Fifteen of these were children.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Nelufule.

Those treated by doctors had all indicated that they knew many more victims who had been attacked but had not sought treatment.

MSF said that police were not opening cases of sexual assault because they claimed the attacks were happening on the Zimbabwean side of the border and that the victims did not stay in Musina long enough for follow-up investigations, amounting to "a waste of resources".

"It looks like nothing has been done to avert that situation," said Le Paih.

"It's well known but it's not recognised," he said.

No proper treatment
Nelufule said that most of the victims of rape did not receive treatment to prevent the contraction of HIV.

Rather than go to the authorities, they opted to continue on to their destinations, whether they be local farms or distant cities.

She also recounted several gruesome stories of women who were victimised by thugs as they crossed the border.

"When they cross they will meet the gangs that take their money, belongings, sometimes even their clothes," said Nelufule.

"One woman, they stripped her down, and searched inside her vagina."

All this took place in front of children.

"Then they raped her one by one," said Nelufule.

MSF is currently treating over 2,000 patients a month from its Musina location, which is next to the local home affairs office.

In addition to clinic care, they have begun taking mobile clinics to local farms.

Most of the people treated were migrants, not only from Zimbabwe but also South Africans from other parts of the country.

Le Paih said that his organisation was beginning to co-operate with the provincial department of health. -- Sapa

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