Maputo - Nearly 9 000 Mozambique nationals have crossed the border from South Africa, fleeing the xenophobic violence that left at least 24 migrants dead, eight of them from Mozambique, officials said Wednesday.
"We are having hectic moments with the return of these people. On Monday we registered 2 911 returnees, on Tuesday 2 725 and today 3 275," said Leonardo Boby, Deputy National Director of Migration.
Boby said many of the new arrivals had lost most of their possessions, following attacks by South African youths claiming the migrants were committing crimes and depriving them of jobs.
According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the repatriation of the Mozambique citizens was sponsored by the government, which also brought back the bodies of four of those who died for burial.
The Mozambican High Commission in Johannesburg hired 10 coaches to ferry home some of those who wanted to leave after being given makeshift accommodation by the South African Red Cross in police stations and churches.
Meanwhile, the Mozambican Human Rights League president, Alice Mabota, condemned the violence and demanded that South African authorities punish those responsible.
Importers are warning that the situation may lead to increases in the price of foodstuffs because of the exit of thousand of nationals working on South African farms.
"The majority of farm workers are Mozambicans and therefore over the next couple of days we might face a scarcity of food because they are fleeing to avoid being the target of violence," one importer told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Mozambique imports the bulk of its potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, onions and other staple foods from South Africa. - Sapa-dpa