Authorities in Malawi have discovered four bodies in a forest close to where dozens more were found in a mass grave on Wednesday.
Police say the bodies were found yesterday morning, less than a mile from where 25 others were exhumed in Mtangatanga Forest Reserve in the northern district of Mzimba.
Pasqually Zulu, a spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services said the deaths were “heartbreaking and very sad”.
“We’re engaging all partners, including the police, intelligence and medical personnel, to ascertain who they are and what is happening,” he said.
“The reports we’re getting is that some IDs show that those people are from Ethiopia. I can’t shed more light until the investigation is done and we will update the general public after that.”
He said his department had been working to stop people trafficking migrants into Malawi and once those involved were discovered, “the law will take its full course”.
Zulu said criminals were taking advantage of people’s desperation to make fast money. Since August, more than 190 men have been repatriated to Ethiopia.
Earlier this year, one of Malawi’s political parties, United Transformation Movement, suspended its regional secretary after it was alleged she used a party vehicle to transport illegal migrants into the country.
In June this year, more than 500 Ethiopian migrants reported being stranded in the country and pleaded to return home, according to a verification exercise conducted by the Ethiopian authorities with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Malawi is a transit country for migrants travelling overland to South Africa, known as the “southern route”, which is mainly used by “irregular migrants” from Ethiopia and Somalia looking for economic opportunities.
A study released by IOM in May this year found the route fraught with danger due to the long distance travelled, the multiple border crossings, the reliance on brokers and the switching of intermediaries along the way.