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Twenty-three-year-old Mozambican Luísa Patrício, who has lived in South Africa for four years, nearly died when she was attacked by one of what she thought were her “brother people.”
“They started a fire at my neighbour’s house, and then I realised. People advised us to flee,” she said, and so she did.
On September 1, Luisa and her sister took refuge in the nearest police station in Mbombela (Neilspruit), 200 kilometres from Maputo.
“My sister and I ran, and I took only my phone with me. I lost everything. They burned everything,” the young woman says.
She and her sister are among the first batch of Mozambicans helped to return home by the government.
Lusa met them at the reception point in Moamba on the road between Maputo and the Ressano Garcia border post, where migrants fleeing violence in South Africa have been sheltering since Thursday, before going on to their home locations.
Fear is a predominant feature of descriptions of the last few days.
“They are not just burning our things and our homes, they are burning people too. If they catch you coming back from work, they burn you. They say we are taking their work,” Luisa added.
Luisa and her sister emigrated to South Africa illegally, like many Mozambicans trying to escape poverty. She worked as a hairdresser and an informal food seller on the streets of Neilspruit, and describes herself as having lived through a nightmare.
Pedro Júnior, 33, a Mozambican from Maputo, had been working as a locksmith in South Africa for eight months and is also among those who have decided to return to their home country.
“I woke up on the 3rd [September] to go to work, but I didn’t get there because they chased me. So I had to run,” the young Mozambican says, himself also an illegal immigrant in the Guateng region.
When he realised that his life was in danger, he too ran to the nearest police station.
“Since September 2nd, we have all been at the police station,” he says, indicating others around him.
And he complains that South African police are dealing with the problem lightly.
“What annoyed me most was that the police didn’t react. They let people wreak havoc. Aren’t we brothers?” he asks. His house was burned down.
“Back to South Africa? Never again. The idea now is to try to fight here,” Luisa Patrício says.
The first group of repatriated Mozambicans arrived in Moamba on Thursday night. About 138 people are being assisted at the transit centre, prior to travelling on home over the next 72 hours.
Since September 1, at least 12 people have died in xenophobic attacks in South Africa, including a foreigner whose nationality has not been revealed.
Mozambican Ministry of Foreign Affairs figures suggest say that more than 400 Mozambicans have expressed an interest in coming home since the outbreak of violSource: Lusa
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