Human trafficking elevated to serious crime in Tanzania

By Deodatus Balile in Dar es Salaam

September 20, 2012

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In response to an increase in human trafficking and migrant deaths on Tanzanian soil earlier this year, President Jakaya Kikwete moved on September 10th to classify human trafficking as a serious crime.

  • Ethiopian migrants who were found locked inside a truck June 26th sit on mattresses in central Dodoma Province. The migrants were believed to be heading south towards Malawi. [AFP]

    Ethiopian migrants who were found locked inside a truck June 26th sit on mattresses in central Dodoma Province. The migrants were believed to be heading south towards Malawi. [AFP]

The incident that sparked the move involved a truck packed with Ethiopian migrants headed for Malawi. On June 26th, villagers in the Dodoma region discovered 82 migrants who had been abandoned by their trafficker after 43 others died from asphyxiation.

Survivors told police they were locked in the truck and yelled for the driver to stop after several people passed out, according to local police chief Zelothe Stephen. When the driver finally stopped, he reportedly ordered the survivors to dump the bodies and clean the truck, before abandoning them in a remote area.

After the shocking discovery, the Tanzanian government pledged to increase border security and crack down on human trafficking.

"The government in collaboration with East African and other African governments will ensure maximum security at borders to combat this illegal trade," said Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Pereira Ame Silima at the burial of 21 migrants near Dodoma on June 29th.

"It is very sad to learn that people have now prioritised money, discarding humanity," he said, according to Tanzania's The Guardian. "The government will neither tolerate such individuals nor their deeds. Stern measures will be taken against any individuals involved in this business."

In that regard, Tanzania's Ministry of Home Affairs announced the launch of a regional taskforce to fight illegal immigration and trafficking.

The taskforce will engage representatives from neighbouring countries and focus on eliminating illegal trafficking of persons travelling through and originating from Tanzania.

Home Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi told parliament in early August that a lack of national identification cards and Tanzania's porous borders make it possible for illegal immigrants to enter the country.

Abdullah Khamis Abdullah, the acting commissioner of the Border Management and Control division within the Immigration Services Department, said human trafficking in Tanzania used to be an ordinary crime, but the shocking deaths of the Ethiopians caused Kikwete to make it more severe.

"Human trafficking is terrible. They use trafficked people to smuggle drugs, engage in prostitution, be recruited into terrorist groups, or worse, to sell parts of their bodies such as their kidneys," Abdullah told Sabahi.

Assistant Commissioner of Police and head of the human trafficking unit Afwilile Mponi said incidents of human trafficking were higher in the first quarter of the year, and have since been contained.

"The number has come down from 150 to 200 [cases a week] to just 20 arrests a week," Mponi told Sabahi. "For example, last week we arrested 16 Ethiopians in Shinyanga and Singida regions."

He appealed to neighbouring countries to maintain peace, which will give their citizens an opportunity to participate in economic activities and reduce poverty that spurs human trafficking. Mponi asked for international support in training and co-ordination as well.

Deusdedith Duncan, a senior partner at FK Law Chambers in Dar es Salaam, said Tanzania ratified the international charter criminalising human trafficking in 2005, and Kikwete's action only strengthens the severity of the offence.

Any offense classified as a serious crime in Tanzania is not eligible for bail and carries a mandatory sentence of 30 years to life in prison, he said.

Acting Commissioner of Immigration Services Department Piniel Mgonja said the government formed a special committee in August to deal with human trafficking, as a number of Tanzanians have been arrested in connection with the illegal business.

He said the government has worked to improve the tools of the Immigration Services Department in order to fight human trafficking and other crimes.

"We had only one speed boat, but this fiscal year we are buying three," Mgonja told Sabahi. "We are buying 37 cars and 100 motorcycles that will be used to patrol various routes to control illegal immigrants."

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Reader's Comments

  • Alphonce masoud
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:10:09AM

    We ask the government to deal with this issue with a lot of attention because it is a shameful matter.

  • faysal
    September 22, 2012 @ 11:01:43AM

    They should be spared because they are just like the Somalis in foreign countries.

  • Mary Eliakimu Laiser
    September 22, 2012 @ 07:43:04AM

    Human trafficking is terrible it should therefore be stopped at all means possible. The fact that trafficked people are used to smuggle drugs, including engaging in sex wok and terrorism etc poses a lot of problems to people and security of any country at large. The East African countries should join hands together and come up with a lasting solutionsto arrest the situation befaore it becomes out of hand.

  • Omar Habib
    September 21, 2012 @ 09:14:17AM

    Is that act a human trafficking or human smuggling. i got confused.

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