WASHINGTON (TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA) – South African police raided a business district in Johannesburg on Wednesday and arrested over 560 undocumented immigrants, authorities said on Thursday.
The operation involving immigration officials and customs in the commercial hub was to rid the area of counterfeit businesses and crime, the South African Police Service said.
“Over 560 undocumented foreign nationals were taken in for processing,” the police said in the statement, adding that authorities would check their immigration status and criminal records.
The police did not state the nationalities of those arrested in operation, but Nigerians have long been targeted in South Africa where they are accused of drug trafficking and prostitution.
Police said it found unlicensed firearms in a raid called “Operation O Kae Molao” (A Sesotho phrase meaning Operation Where’s the Law?) launched in 2018. Seven policemen, including four officers who were caught selling the confiscated items to traders were arrested during the raid, CNN reported.
South African Police Minister Bheki Cele said law enforcement agencies will fight crime no matter who is affected.
“We cannot have parallel governance with criminals, therefore we will continue to squeeze the space for criminals to zero regardless of race, gender or nationality,” Cele said.
CNN reported that the raid came a week after police officers clashed with traders when they tried to seize counterfeit products in the area.
There were fears the raids could spark xenophobic attacks.
“Does it matter if violence is caused by locals or foreigners? Crime is crime deal with the criminals but do not steer xenophobia!,” One person wrote on Twitter.
South Africa’s parliament home affairs committee chair Bongani Bongo said while immigrants contribute to the country’s growth, illegal immigration should be discouraged. He said that the committee has called for the deportation of illegal immigrants, according to CNN.