Tanzania's stern warning to illegal migrantsBy ZEPHANIA UBWANI in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania | Friday, October 12 2012 at 11:34
Tanzania will have no sympathy for illegal immigrants from the Horn of Africa, even if caught using the country only as a transit route, a minister said.
The minister for East African Cooperation, Mr Samuel Sitta, said on Monday during a visit to the Holili border post in the north that Tanzania was bound by international obligations not to offer passage for illegal migrants.
He said there was a danger of the country being caught up in conflicts with other states if it allowed illegal immigrants to pass through its territory on the so-called humanitarian grounds.
"We can't allow them to transit to other countries out of sympathy. We are bound by international obligations in dealing with illegal immigrants," he said when speaking to traders and local officials at the border town.
The minister was responding to pleas by some officials and representatives of civil society organisations who suggested that foreigners from the Horn of Africa states should be allowed to pass through the country.
A senior immigration officer at the border town, Mr Frederick Kiondo, told the minister that Tanzania’s image had been tarnished by the deaths of illegal immigrants while in the country.
The deaths occurred through suffocation while the foreigners were being transported in air tight lorries, some died when boats ferrying them capsized while others simply died of hunger and thirst in various hideouts.
Mr Kiondo said during a meeting at Kilacha near the border town, that Tanzania should develop its "own strategies" to address the problem, which has worsened because of the increasing deaths.
He stated that since most of the illegal immigrants originated from the Horn of Africa and entered the country through Kenya, Tanzania should impose strict conditions on the former to prevent their entry.
"Alternatively, we could allow them to go through our country since they are not targeting Tanzania as their destination. They are not going to stay," he argued during a meeting convened to discuss border problems between Tanzania and Kenya.
Most of the illegal immigrants originate from Ethiopia and Somalia, but recently there have been reports of others coming from Sudan.
Some are also said to be from the Middle Eastern countries.
Some 600 cases have been reported since the beginning of the year.
Mr Kiondo explained that the immigrants were operating through agents whom they paid to ensure a safe passage from the Horn of Africa to southern Africa.
He noted that they were able to raise $200 as visa fee.
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