Ethiopian workers found dead at border in Malawi

Malawi police find more bodies near mass grave that contained 25 Ethiopians

Police discovered several bodies on Tuesday morning at a mass grave, discovered near the town of Mwenge in Malawi’s southern province of Katangaa. Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Mbata said that they are still looking for missing persons among the victims.

In the first week of March, the Malawian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that 13 Ethiopians had passed away in the Katangaa region.

Those Ethiopian victims were mainly members of a large family that had been in Malawi for many years. The relatives of the victims say that a close relative of their family committed suicide on March 2, around the arrival of the Ethiopian workers on the Malawian side of the border.

Ethiopians who work in Malawi, which is located just north of the Gulf of Mexico, are usually housed in Malawi for five to eight weeks and return to their home country after the first half of March of each year. During the next year, they will be in need of more work permits.

Malawian Vice President Walter Mwanawasa told Al Jazeera that the Ethiopian deaths were an open wound for the country.

“The Ethiopian government has assured us the deaths were not the fault of the government of Malawi. In fact, I would say the Ethiopians are very good people. These Ethiopians from the border area were treated well and left Malawi with no problems – I am sad but for the victims, for the families,” he said.

“It is important to realise that people from neighbouring countries are using the border in the wrong way. We have to be careful when dealing with our own population.”

Hundreds of Ethiopians live in the country, most of whom are working as labourers at farms, in small hotels and as teachers. The small hotel where the Ethiopian workers were found was abandoned the day after the incident. In the hotel’s lobby, the Ethiopian victims’ belongings had been tossed in the trash. According to some reports, the victims’ bodies were also found with a sheet thrown over them.

Al Jazeera spoke to one Ethiopian worker who asked not to be identified.

“It is not easy to explain what happened. There were no human rights abuses and it was easy for us to earn money to be able to live,” she said.

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