IN early August, President Jakaya Kikwete gave a two-week ultimatum to all illegal immigrants to voluntarily leave the country.
A good number of them complied with the president's directive, with about 8,000 illegal immigrants who were hiding in several villages in Kagera Region having left for their countries of origin by the expiry of the deadline.
The president had warned that force would be used against those disobeying the order and, true, many illegal immigrants disobeyed, giving room for the strong arm of the law to do its work.
The president had made it clear that the operation was not targeting any particular country, but all the people who entered and had been staying in the country illegally.
It was actually in response to a lengthy outcry by people, especially those living close to the country's borders, over increased incidents of crime including robbery, cattle rustling, rape and illegal grazing.
We support the operation to flush out and deport illegal immigrants, firmly believing that the move is long overdue for illegal immigration is subjecting the country to serious challenges and risks. We never know whether or not the people who cross into our land, illegally, are criminals in their respective homelands.
Very unfortunately however some countries have personalised the operation. The BBC for instance has quoted Rwanda's Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs Seraphine Mukantabana as saying that the expulsion of Rwandans from Tanzania was politically motivated.
Malawi as well has come up with unfounded claims that her people were beaten up, tortured and driven out of Tanzania. We see such utterances as deliberate moves aimed at tarnishing the good image of Tanzania, a country with international reputation of being a place of safety and protection.
It's our country's political stability, diverse ethnic and cultural make-up that attract immigrants from neighbouring--Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. Aliens are always welcome as long as they follow relevant immigration rules and procedures. Tanzania is a hospitable country and so are its people.
Likewise, many Tanzanians live in other countries world over. And, Tanzania has always encouraged her people to follow rules and regulations in the host countries--because we well understand that raising issues with law breakers, as our neighbours are doing with their citizens, amounts to touting crimes simply because the committers are outside their homeland.
Crossing one country's border illegally is a crime that should be checked against by not only the receiving country but also the countries of origin which suffer badly from brain drain. Effective and fruitful fight against illegal immigration will therefore require good cooperation and exchange of information among countries.
After all, there is nothing unique with the Tanzanian operation for many countries in Europe, America, Asia, Middle East and Africa do the same. Who wants to keep up with criminals?