Four more bodies of suspected illegal immigrants from Ethiopia have been found in northern Malawi near the site of a mass grave containing the remains of 25 Ethiopian nationals, according to police in the southern African country.
Malawi police spokesman Peter Kalaya said the Ethiopians were suspected victims of human trafficking. The four bodies were found a day after the bodies of 25 Ethiopian migrants were exhumed from a mass grave in the Mzimba district of northern Malawi. The 25 victims were men between the ages of 25 and 40, the police found.
In an update on Thursday, Kalaya said: “The (newly discovered) bodies were found … in a decomposed state on the ground, while another 25 bodies were recovered on Wednesday from a mass grave about a kilometer away inside the Mtangatanga Forest Reserve.”
He added that an autopsy was being performed on the victims to determine the cause of death.
Kalaya told CNN on Friday that some arrests had been made.
“Seventy-two Ethiopians have been arrested on charges of ‘illegal entry’ in violation of Malawi’s Immigration laws (and) ten Malawians have been arrested on suspicion of assisting these illegal migrants through Malawi,” a police spokesman said.
Malawi has become an increasingly popular route for undocumented migrants, particularly from the Horn of Africa, to reach South Africa, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“We repeatedly apprehend illegal migrants in the country,” Kalaya told CNN of the Malawi government’s crackdown on illegal migrants, noting that many of those apprehended are Ethiopians and Somalis.
More than 200 illegal immigrants have been apprehended in the last eight months, he said, adding that 186 of them were Ethiopian citizens.
Last year, more than 100 Ethiopians returned to their country “after finding themselves trapped at the borders of Malawi,” the country’s immigration service said at the time.
In 2012, nearly 50 migrants from Ethiopia died when their boat capsized while crossing Lake Malawi.