Greener pastures: Why illegal immigrants sneak into Tanzania

MIGRATION is part and parcel of the world development today as people move from one corner of the world to another in order to extract or grab available economic opportunities and transfer of knowledge for their livelihood.

With the current pace of the global technological advancements, the move has fuelled the migration worldwide in such a manner that, “immigrants do not abide by the laid down legal procedures and regulations of the countries to which they seek refuge”.

The point to note in this case is that, “people should not be forbidden to migrate but controlled accordingly in order to curb those who sneak into another country’s borders illegally because if left freely, their illegal stay pose not only economic, social and political problems but also security concerns”.

Tanzania is among the countries in the world which is faced with a myriad of challenges in its move to curb with the influx of foreign immigrants, who tend to cross the border and enter the country illegally.

The Commissioner General of Immigration department in the country, Dr Anna Makakala confirmed recently that, most of these immigrants engage in various economic activities for their personal gain without having legal resident permits.

Unlike refugees, these groups are exceptional, bearing in mind the fact that have good reasons of stay for being political asylum seekers but are restricted not to move outside refugee camps and if allowed must have a residence work permit.

Massive refugees do venture into the country in order to save their lives so as to get away with the persistent tribal clashes emanating in their mother countries and resort for political asylum and become refugees in the country.

Despite being exceptional, it is very disappointing to note that, most refugees have been found directly involved in malpractices such like illicit drug businesses and illegal human trafficking, importation of illegal fire arms contrary to the law while others are involved in conning and other criminal acts contrary to the laws.

In Tanzania, the issue of illegal immigrants has become a national agenda which to a greater extent has exacerbated the increased rates of criminality in affected regions such as Kagera and Kigoma bordering the great Lakes countries of DRC, Burundi and Rwanda respectively. In addition, the two regions have been hosting refugees.

Conflicts in the Great Lakes region dramatically increased the number of refugees in Tanzania from 292,100 in 1992 to 883,300 in 1994 mostly during the time when Rwandan genocide took place.

According to available data, by December 2017, the number of registered refugees in the country had dropped to approximately 22,400. While increased stability in the region has slowed the flow of refugees into the country. Other types of irregular migration have increased substantially in the country.

There are a number of reasons as to why illegal immigrants are mushrooming in the country especially in these two regions despite having harsh legislation coupled by the crucial roles being played by the Immigration security agents in controlling them.

Elaborating in detail, a spokesperson of the Immigration Department in the country, Ally Mtanda says that historically Tanzania has become a lovely country whereby visitors come to seek for political asylum to avoid political fracas, social clashes which frequently takes place in their respective mother countries.

He further says that, there are some who skip an exercise of returning back to their respective countries voluntarily while have not yet legalized their stay in the country, hence continues staying in the country by violating laws and rules imposed.

Geographically, Tanzania is estimated to having a large space covering 954,087 square kilometres and is bounded by eight different countries which are Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

The large territorial space is surrounded by beacon marks or sea waters, Lakes and rivers and in some areas the border lines are marked by small hills which do not have proper demarcation lines and hence provides easy access through and allows passage of illegal immigrants who enters and lives in the country.

Another reason which exacerbates the increased illegal immigrants in the country is associated with economic issues whereby Tanzania has adopted free market economy an aspect which is an attraction to outside people who prefers to come and seek for their livelihood.

Mtanda attributes further other reasons for illegal immigration into the country is associated with peace and tranquility which prevails in the country, so immigrants resort to stay with intent to apply for the country’s citizenship.

The use of modern communication technology systems which has enabled the high pace globalization, these have brought about various challenges to people seeking for jobs in the country.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has been so keen enough to curb the phenomenon and among the measures it has put in place is where the internal security agents has been working closely with the local people to identify non-citizens as stipulated under section 54 of the Immigration Act 2010.

In addition, the ministry through the department continues to install computers in all regions which are connected directly with the headquarter in order to monitor communications of people along the border lines at various entry points at district and regional level in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.

The government has apprehended a total of 8,748 immigrants in an on-going nationwide crackdown to net illegal immigrants from fellow East African Community (EAC) member countries who sneaked into the country’s territorial borders from January to December 2018.

Figures released by the Immigration Department indicates that most of the victims were those caught to have entered through unofficial channels, including unregistered entry points and engaged in various petty businesses in various parts of the country.

The Immigration spokesperson Ally Mtanda said in an interview mid this week that, the majority of illegal immigrants are 6,735 Burundi nationals who covers 80 percent of the total number apprehended within a one year time frame.

Other illegal immigrants who could not escape the chain of arrest with their numbers in brackets came from Kenya (936), Uganda (504) and Rwanda (573) respectively.

The current number of illegal aliens has reduced down by 20 percent in comparison with the total number of 11,030 nabbed earlier in a crackdown which started in January throughout up to December 2017.

The Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Hamad Masauni said during questions and answer sessions that, 6,316 most of whom were Burundi nationals were returned to their respective mother countries, 2,815 of undocumented immigrants were sent to court, 117 were slapped with fines, 429 were imprisoned while 1,353 were set free after meeting the requirements.

Elaborating, Mtanda said that Tanzania government had introduced a penalty of repatriating most of the apprehended culprits to their mother countries in respect of the continued relations with member states with the exception of the few.

He further noted that, only few among the victims were fined after having been found guilty of their involvement with major offenses such as being in illegal possession of fire arms and many others related to it.

In addition, Tanzania has been faced with a myriad of cases as a main passage of human trafficking whereby untrustworthy citizens have been arrested and jailed or fined after having been found guilty to have been involved in one way or another in transporting illegal immigrants to South Africa in search of good pasture.

Statistics show that, for the last three years, about 818 nationals from Somalia and Ethiopians who entered the country through unregistered border points in northern regions on their way to South Africa in search of good pastures had been arrested and jailed for the offence, while others faced repatriation.

The country does not have a dedicated immigration detention centre and instead uses local police stations, prisons and remand homes to detain migrants until they can be deported. In a period of one year’s time, the government has impounded 10 vehicles for allegedly involved in illegal human trafficking and these were later on confiscated by the government.

Either, the government has taken to task owners of houses on which the aliens were kept secretly awaiting for their transport across the border to southern African destinations.

According to Mtanda, his office managed to apprehend the vehicles by help of intelligence workers surveillance the suspected areas and came into contact with these. Emmanuel Onyango is a freelance journalist

JULIUS Mugasha (52) a resident of Butulage village ...


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