More than 5,000 Tanzanians and scores of other foreigners have fled Mozambique during a government crackdown on what it calls “illegal” immigrants living in the northern mining town of Montepuez, well-known for its rubies.
Migrant workers have go to the town, which is 800km (500 miles) from the Tanzanian border, to find work in the mines which are thought to hold 40% of the world’s known supply of rubies.
Two weeks ago, local authorities gave all foreigners regarded as illegals five days to leave the area.
Those passing through the border post at Kilamba village in Tanzania say the rolling clampdown has been dominated by police brutality and claim their property has been stolen, passports destroyed and even women have been raped.
Other nationalities affected are Somali and Senegalese.
The returnees told shared stories of brutality perpetrated by the security forces. One man said:
“I was sleeping in my shop when all of a sudden the door was broken then police officers entered and they started beating me. Luckily I got a chance to escape and fled to the forest. When I came back I found they’ve taken all of my stuff."
Dotto Michael told me he and some other immigrants were to be officially deported in buses:
“We were about to board a bus which was offered for free but the police decided to charge us. So when the bus was about to leave, this young man wanted to climb in without paying - and he didn’t have money at all, in fact he hadn’t even eaten for almost three days – so the police pushed him over and when he fell on the ground, the bus ran over him and he died instantly.”
Emilia Jose, a Mozambican woman, married to a Tanzanian, said she witnessed her friend being raped by the police in front of her children after they took the little money she had.
They told her, 'Give us money or else we’ll kill you!’ One of the policemen said, ‘Let's not kill her, let's rape her.’. Then they started raping her - not one policeman, but two of them."
We tried to get a response from the Mozambican authorities about these allegations, but they were not available for comment.