Zambia’s police service says it is investigating the deaths of 27 men, all believed to be Ethiopian nationals, whose bodies were found on Sunday “dumped” by the roadside near the capital, Lusaka.
Police spokesman Danny Mwale said in a statement that a total of 28 victims were found abandoned along Chiminuka road in the Ngwerere area of Lusaka.
Only one of the men – who were all aged between 20 and 38 years – survived, Mwale said.
“Out of the 28 persons, one was found gasping for life,” the police statement said, adding that the 27 bodies had been transferred to a Lusaka morgue “awaiting formal identification and postmortem.”
The sole survivor was taken to a hospital for treatment, the police said.
Ethiopians are increasingly taking desperate measures to escape Africa’s second most populous country, which has been in the grip of civil war for the past two years.
Some Ethiopian nationals are lured with promises of job opportunities in South Africa but end up being held in dire conditions, according to immigration officials cited by the Lusaka Times.
The latest discovery comes less than two months after police in neighboring Malawi found a mass grave that contained the remains of 25 Ethiopians in Malawi’s northern Mzimba district.
Four more bodies of Ethiopian nationals were found “in a decomposed state” a day after, near the site of the mass grave in Mzimba, Malawi’s police said at the time.
Just like Malawi, which has increasingly become a popular route for smuggling syndicates, Zambia has been described as both “a transit and destination country” for illegal migrants from the Horn of Africa who pass through the southern African country with the aim of reaching South Africa.
In July, Zambia’s immigration officials intercepted more than 50 Ethiopians who were believed to have been smuggled into the country on their way to South Africa.