The exercise, reminiscent of the famous “Operation Chibolya”, started around 12:00 hours and the officers found various items including suspected narcotics, computers, mobile phones, groceries, foodstuffs and huge sums of US dollars, Kwacha and other currencies hidden in safes.
At an unnamed guesthouse, the officers found safes that could not be opened while certain foodstuffs believed to be expired were found hidden in the toilet.
The officers also found that at another lodge, over 70 girls shared a room.
Security was tight as the police officers mounted a roadblock on Great North Road and searched all the vehicles.
The rounded up Somalis, mostly women and children, wept as they were bundled into police vehicles before being taken to Edwin Imboela Stadium for screening.
Some of them were found at Ohan Transport garage where there is a mosque and restaurant but company director Abdulai Yasin Nur said he does not harbour illegal immigrants and that all his employees have valid immigration documents.
“These people just come here to pray at the mosque and have their meal at this restaurant. Otherwise no one lodges here because this is a garage,” he said.
Immigration Department spokesperson Namati Nshinka said the operation was just one of the many planned exercises aimed at ridding the country of illegal immigrants and any other persons engaging in illegal activities like drug trafficking, human trafficking, and forging documents such as national registration cards, refugee cards, and drivers’ licences.
“These operations are on-going and as such I wish to urge people to be moving with their national identity documents so as to avoid being inconvenienced.
“I further wish to warn the public against harbouring, aiding or abating prohibited immigrants as this is a serious offence and they risk being arrested and prosecuted,” Mr Nshinka said.
Some Somalis talked to said they were beaten and bundled into police vehicles despite showing the officers valid documents.
“I was in a taxi and just because I don’t look like a typical Zambian, I was beaten despite showing them my green national registration card. I even have a Zambian passport which is at home in Kabulonga,” cried Abdirahm Jama.
Another woman complained that a police officer grabbed her car keys and she could not identify him.
The operation was still going on by 16:00 hours.
At Edwin Imboela Stadium, a police officer accidentally dropped a teargas canister and a vehicle carrying suspected illegal immigrants ran over the canister.
This caused the canister to explode resulting in panic and some police and immigration officers scampering for safety.
Zambia Daily Mail