The government yesterday deported 20 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, after they had served ten months in Tanzanian jails.
According to Dar es Salaam immigration control officer, Rovaita Mlosa Mlosa the illegal immigrants were arrested in the country on their way to South Africa from Bangladesh.
Such arrests have of late been a frequent story in the country’s media. Among the many recent ones were the tragic deaths of 43 illegal immigrants whose bodies were discovered in a forest in Kongwa District, Dodoma in June this year.
Coming from Ethiopia, the illegal immigrants were apparently being transported to Malawi and South Africa. But it is also true that the destination of many is our country, where they settle illegally.
But more serious is that some of them may be criminals running from the law in their countries of origin or out to engage in cross-border crime.
It is against this background that the government has warned that the problem was serious and that the resources to counter it were limited, calling on the people to be more vigilant and report any suspicious people.
The immigration department has stated that it will do everything in its power to fight the menace, but alone it cannot win the war against illegal immigrants without close cooperation with local residents.
Seeing and reading about the state of conflict around the world, it is necessary to remind Tanzanians, especially those living in the border areas to exercise extra vigilance, when dealing with strangers.
As the immigration officer who should know better stressed, many of the illegal immigrants enter the country through unauthorised points, commonly referred to as panya routes and would usually be first spotted by the local residents.
Monitoring the 450-kilometre Tanzania-Kenya border stretching from Kilimanjaro to Mara surely would benefit a lot from the cooperation of residents in the areas most plagued by illegal entrants.
According to immigration officers, this is the border through which most illegal immigrants cross over into the country en-route to southern Africa countries and this is where they have their ‘hosts’.
It has for example been reported that some of the people in the border areas have been facilitating the entry of illegal immigrants into the country in return for payment.
Indeed a few make their living through not only ferrying such people into the country, but also securing papers to ‘legalise’ their stay, even if their mission is harmful to the country’s interests.
In their greed, they are putting the country’s security at a great risk.
Everyone one of us is duty-bound to do everything in our power to ensure the country is secure, for therein lies our own individual security.
We must view this exercise in the context of the bigger undertaking of the nation which is in the process of compiling vital records of its citizens, to whom it will issue national identity cards soon. While this will help to control aliens, without active participation of the people, identifying illegal immigrants will still be an uphill task.
That is why the government must continue to make the residents of the border areas aware of their special role in fighting the racket.