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‘Enough With Illegal Immigrants’: Tanzania Introduces Visa on Arrival for Ethiopian Nationals

Authorities say the move will help curb illegal immigrants entering Tanzania from Ethiopia.

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Dar es Salaam. Minister for Home Affairs Hamad Masauni informed the parliament on Monday that the government will implement a visa-on-arrival arrangement for Ethiopian nationals as part of the national efforts to curb illegal immigrants from the Horn of Africa.

Mr Masauni announced the plan while tabling his ministry’s 2022/2023 financial year budget, noting that from now on, Ethiopians will be allowed into Tanzania when they possess a passport of their nation and a visa that would allow them to proceed with their travel outside Tanzania.

“This effort is part of the process to resolve a longtime challenge of illegal immigrants from that country,” Mr Masauni, who doubles as Kikwajuni MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM), told lawmakers.

He said in 2023/2024 financial year, his ministry will continue to combat immigrants trying to enter Tanzania through illegal means by ensuring that all the people entering the East African nation do so by complying with its laws and regulations.

A visa on arrival allows foreign travellers to securely enter another country without getting a visa approved before arrival.

Depending on one’s nationality, one may have to get a visa on arrival for tourism or business when visiting a country abroad.

Tanzania has been struggling with the issue of Ethiopian immigrants who get into the country illegally while transiting to other countries, particularly South Africa.

The issue has been one of the issues defining Tanzania-Ethiopia relations for a while now, putting authorities from the two countries on task for the best resolution.

On numerous occasions, authorities in Tanzania have arrested Ethiopian nationals who entered the country illegally while transiting to other countries, most of the time travelling in trucks sending goods outside the country.

On April 10, 2023, for example, police in the southern region of Njombe announced that they were holding 63 illegal migrants from Ethiopia who were among 100 immigrants who sneaked into Tanzania via Nairobi and Mombassa, Kenya.

A total of 40 other immigrants were said to be on the run. Police in the region arrested the immigrants after intercepting the lorry they were travelling in following an accident.

In 2021, then-President John Magufuli ordered the release of 1,789 Ethiopians imprisoned for entering Tanzania illegally.

Magufuli’s pardon came after he met with his Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde who was in the country for an official visit.

According to a 2022 report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a UN agency that ensures the orderly and humane management of migration, as of 2022, there were 793 Ethiopian migrants in various detention centres across Tanzania.

When interviewed for the IOM study, nearly all respondents stated that it took them between two weeks and three months to reach Tanzania, with 40 per cent saying they had been en route between one and three months and paid around US$5,000 for the journey.

In its report, IOM stated that the distance travelled, multiple border crossings, reliance on brokers and switching intermediaries expose migrants to numerous protection risks, including deception, exploitation, ill-treatment, and even death.

The overwhelming majority of Ethiopian immigrants in Tanzania told IOM they experienced a severe lack of food, water or shelter, with others reporting to have suffered abuse, violence, assault, or torture.

Some immigrants reported to have witnessed the death of fellow migrants, sometimes two or three people.

Several families interviewed for the IOM report confirmed losing at least one member while travelling to Southern Africa through Tanzania. IOM thinks the route may have become more violent, exploitative, and perilous.

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