Nearly 600 foreigners were arrested in a police raid on a business district in Johannesburg, South Africa, police and government officials said Thursday.
The operation involving immigration officials and customs in the commercial hub on Wednesday was to rid the area of counterfeit businesses and crime, South African Police Service said.
“Over 560 undocumented foreign nationals were taken in for processing,” South Africa police said in the statement and added that authorities would check their immigration status and criminal records.
The police did not state the nationalities of those arrested in operation.
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.
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.
The raid comes barely a week after police officers clashed with traders when they tried to seize counterfeit products in the area. Though many people have commended the police efforts, some said it 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.