Border residents in the north call human trafficking a ‘good business’ while the immigration department in Dar es Salaam warns that it has cost the nation dearly.
Some local people especially the youths at Horohoro boarder in Tanga region and around communities are extremely serious helping Somalis and other illegal immigrants from the north of Africa to cross the border to Tanzania either on foot, by bicycle, cars or motorcycles. The accomplices claim that the business has helped them to fight poverty in the area.
“We are paid in Kenyan shillings and change the money into Tanzanian currency or vice versa” says Nyiko a resident at Horohoro area.
“We are not transporting only Somalis and Ethiopians, but also we do smuggle commodities such as foodstuffs from Tanzania. Kerosene, jerry cans, tea, drugs (milungi) are brought in from neighboring communities such as Dunga Mafoloni village in Kenya,” Nyiko says.
The youths from Makijembe, Malamba and Malongo villages who are involved in the business of transporting commodities including human beings say that they do it around 2.00 am to 4.00 am. There is no specific route used and the business is ‘seasonal.’
“The business depends on seasons, for instance we smuggle foodstuffs during the harvest season” says Athanas Lyamba, a resident of Malamba village.
However, the truck driver who does business between Tanga town and Mombasa who prefers anonymity says that transporting illegal immigrants is good trade since each person transported fetches U$ 3000 to 5000 depending on the distance.
“If I take them from Tanga to Dar es Salaam, every person pays U$3000, but if the business is from border to border, for instance from Horohoro to Tunduma, the price will increase to U$5000 per head,” he says.
Asked how human beings can be transported in a roofed truck without fainting and how they manage to pass at check points, he says that the people being transported have to sit in front of fruits or any cargo and remain silent at check points. The police officers do not check inside the truck, says the driver.
Well informed sources from the immigration headquarter in Dar observe that some of the immigration officials have already received letters of ‘warning’ concerning their involvement in the business however.
“We can’t refute the allegations, but I can assure you that if they are proved and there is enough evidence of their involvement, the department will always take appropriate measures against the culprits,” says Mr Ijimbo, Immigration Deputy Director of Public relations.
He says that the department receives tip-offs concerning business ‘agents’ who transporting humans and provide them with reservation in some local hotels in the country. His department always carries out inspections in these hotels at such times.
“We captured them in one of the hotels,” adds Mr Ijimbo, declining to reveal the name of the hotel.
According to anonymous sources, these hotels are located along Lamada, Gerezani streets at Kariakoo, Bagamoyo and one in the city centre.
Those being smuggled are kept inside the rooms and are not allowed to get out until the time of departure.
Due to increased surveillance, most of the immigrants have changed routes and come through water in the Indian Ocean by canoes or boats. It is thus difficult to stop them. Most of them turn out to be pirates but countries concerned lack enough equipment to deal with such crime.
Data obtained from the immigration department in Dar shows that the government is loosing a lot of money dealing with illegal immigrants. The government spent dearly on the health, security and repatriation of at least 400 Somalis this year and 800 others last year.
According to the immigration department, it is estimated that every person uses at least U$ 500 as fare back home and not less than U$ 50 on medicine. Worse still, Ethiopians and Somalis eat only rice and meat as opposed to ugali and beans.
The International Organization for Migration says human trafficking is a serious problem in Tanzania. The agency launched in 2007 aims at informing vulnerable people of the risks they run if they fall prey to smuggling networks, observes Lisa Schlein who reports for VOA from IOM headquarters in Geneva.
The agency spokesperson Jean-Philippe Chauzy was quoted as saying that Tanzania was becoming a transit country for victims of trafficking from the Horn of Africa who are taken to South Africa either as domestic workers or workers in commercial agriculture, in some cases, in fishing and mining industries."
Despite the fact that human trafficking is becoming a global issue, Tanzania ought to answer several questions: Which immigration official is behind this business? How are they transferred through the country? Which hotels do they book? Are the other state organs aware of the business?
By Deogratias Kishombo
Freelance Journalist, Tanzania.