THE government has spent 60m/- as transportation cost to fly back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a total of 80 illegal immigrants who survived the Dodoma tragedy that claimed lives of 43 companions.
The Ethiopians were found dead in an air-tight container in June, this year, near Dodoma en route for 'greener pastures' in South Africa. A medical report confirmed that they had suffocated to death.
The spokesperson of the Immigration Department in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Abbas Irovya, said bilateral negotiations with officials from the Ethiopian embassy in Dar es Salaam led to safe return of the illegal immigrants."The two governments and other stakeholders decided to work out common strategies to address the problem right from its root.
The challenge appeals for joint efforts in the region to avoid further loss of lives," Irovya explained in an exclusive interview with the 'Sunday News' in Dar es Salaam this week.Mr Irovya said surveillance has of late been improved by deploying more patrol units at Longido, Loliondo, Ngorongoro, Holili, Taveta and Namanga border posts, said to be major entry points as additional measures to restrain the influx of illegal immigrants.
As for dealers who cash on the illegal business, he said community awareness campaign would be intensified for local communities to help identify strangers in their places of domicile to curb the human trafficking business."Dealers helping illegal immigrants find their way through will equally be dealt with. They operate in a syndicate and this will be eliminated through joint efforts. Dealers have been nabbed and arraigned to answer charges of cashing in on the human trafficking," he explained.
Giving statistics on the magnitude of the problem, Mr Irovya said a total of 418 illegal Ethiopian immigrants were intercepted and detained from January to June, this year. In the same period 535 of the same nationality were imprisoned.Also detained in the same period were 296 Somalis. More than 13 Somalis were jailed for the same offence of illegal presence in the country. Mr Irovya said six cases of illegal Somali immigrants were going on in court at the time.
All the immigrants had been intercepted while on their way to Malawi en route to South Africa.The cost of keeping the illegal immigrants and flying them back to their country of origin was staggering, said Irovya. "If, for example, the government decides to send back 800 illegal immigrants, the cost would be ten times which is 600m/-. The best option was not to continue putting them in police custody before sending them back to their countries," he said.
However, Mr Irovya said critics of their operation suggested that the government should establish a camp for illegal immigrants where they can be given farm work to do extensively to pay for their upkeep instead of keeping them in prisons and feed them with the tax-payers' money, while they wait for a comfortable flight back to their home countries.
Recent visit to the southern part of the country revealed that there was a decline of illegal immigrants in the country in transit to the southern part of Africa.Kyela District Commissioner, Ms Margaret Ester Malenga, confirmed to 'Sunday News' recently that the immigration report indicates that intensification of patrol has deterred more illegal immigrants from crossing into the country.
Some routes illegal immigrants use are in lakes or parts of the ocean where their traffickers use powerful vessels, which easily outrun immigration vessels. "We therefore need more and better equipment," Irovya said.