The Ethiopian government said in a statement that it will launch an investigation on the report of the 27 dead bodies of Ethiopian migrants found near Lusaka, Zambia.
“The Government of Ethiopia expresses its deepest sorrow over the tragedy and it is collaborating with the Government of Zambia to send experts to the area to confirm the identities of the citizens who allegedly lost their lives while attempting to cross into South Africa illegally.”
Zambian police found the bodies of 27 men, believed to be Ethiopian migrants, dumped in farmland outside the capital on Sunday.
The migrants are supposed to have suffocated while in transit. Zambia is a transit point for migrants from the Horn of Africa who want to reach South Africa.
One survivor was found and taken to a hospital in Lusaka for treatment. Meanwhile, the bodies of the dead were taken to the crematory for a pathological examination to identify them and determine the exact cause of death, police said.
Zambian police added that they died from suspected hunger and exhaustion, but also underlined the need for additional investigation to understand the real cause of their death.
Diamond TV, a Zambian broadcaster first reported that “about 40 bodies believed to be of Somalian Nationals have been dumped by unknown people in Chongwe's Ngwerere area”, but later said, “Police have picked 27 bodies believed to be of Ethiopian migrants, in Chongwe's Ngwerere farming area on the outskirts of the capital, Lusaka”.
Zambian police spokesperson Danny Mwale told media the dumped bodies are all believed to be Ethiopian nationals and all males aged between 20 and 38.
After expressing its deep sorrow over the accident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that will launch an investigation into the report that “27 Ethiopians died near Lusaka, the capital of Zambia”.
On October 10th of this year, the dead bodies of 26 Ethiopian migrants were found in a mass grave in Malawi. Villagers found the bodies in a forest located near the main road that connects Malawi and Tanzania, which is known as a route used by traffickers to transport people to South Africa.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also disclosed that a team led by the Ministry is in Malawi to investigate the alleged death of the migrants.
“This incident demonstrates the continued need for coordinated efforts from citizens and relevant Government agencies to reduce the harm that human trafficking causes to our citizens,” the Ministry said.
The government of Malawi has reported that it has arrested 221 illegal immigrants in the country, among whom 186 are Ethiopians. Malawi and Mozambique are often seen as the main transit routes for illegal immigration to South Africa.
According to the Zambian Department of Immigration, between 21st and 28th October 2022, it removed 188 Ethiopians after serving sentences, predominantly in Eastern and Central Provinces, for offenses of illegal entry and unlawful stay.
The latest removals bring the total number of Ethiopians removed from Zambia’s various correctional facilities since 8th September 2022 to 532.
Two years ago, 64 Ethiopian refugees died in a cargo truck in Malawi's neighboring country, Mozambique.
Zambia’s strict immigration laws mean that undocumented migrants can be prosecuted for consenting to be smuggled and given minimum prison sentences of 15 years, according to UN migration office IOM.