Immigration officials are hot on the trail of a syndicate that smuggles immigrants from Asia with the promise of better-paying jobs in African countries.
The suspects include diplomats in some embassies, who are reported to have actively defended human traffickers and aliens arrested by Tanzanian authorities and pleaded for their release.
The Citizen on Saturday has established that the syndicate has agents in Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa. Some of the traffickers operate in Tanzania under cover of being investors and have acquired Class A resident permits, but their main business is to facilitate human trafficking.
The story of six Nepalese who were arrested in Dar es Salaam in January this year after being duped by a trafficking agent captures the seriousness of the problem in Tanzania. They were arrested at a hotel in Ilala, where an agent named Bijaya Chhettri had booked a room. He disappeared, never to be seen again.
One of the duped six told a Nepalese newspaper, Republica, that they all met in Delhi in India before departing for Kenya on tourist visas. The immigration department in Kenya reportedly provided them with on-arrival visas, according to the man, who has served in the Nepalese army for 17 years.
The six arrived in Delhi on October 29 as per the instructions of a local agent handling those seeking jobs as security guards at UN missions in EA. They were assured they would be paid $1,500 per month.
They claim that a man representing an unregistered manpower agency collected them and handed them to the first line agent.
They were then taken to the second line agent, who led them to Kenya and handed them over to Chhettri, who holds a passport under the name Chakra Bahadur BK and has two citizenship cards.
Here in Dar es Salaam, Chhetri was assisted by a Punjabi named Sunny, but they were arrested at the hotel in the early hours and never came face to face with Chhetri. The four spent four days in police custody and were about to be sent to the head office of the immigration department when someone came to their rescue. “On the last day, we were fortunate enough to contact Kul Bahadur Karki, a Nepalese who works in Uganda and is a former non-resident in Kenya,” one of the men told a Nepalese paper.
With the help of Karki in Kenya and former NRN president in Tanzania Bharat Rijal–a chartered accountant who is in Nepal at present–they made their way back home.
Mr Rijal confirmed having received reports of many other Nepalese stranded in Africa. According to the six victims, one group of about 13 has already reached Tanzania and is now out of contact and another group is also all set to leave for Delhi soon in anticipation of landing in Tanzania. Statistics from the Immigration Department indicate that about 35 Nepalese and 29 Bangladesh aliens were arrested in Tanzania last year.
Yesterday, Dar es Salaam Regional Immigration Officer Grace Hokororo confirmed the arrests. They were facing an uphill task trying to crack down on the powerful syndicates involved in the business, she added. Asked why the Nepalese were not formally charged, Ms Hokororo said: “We ordered them back to their home country because they entered the country using valid tourist visas. We deported them upon discovering they were not tourists.”
The problem is serious, she added, but significant achievements have been recorded in recent years. “Some come under cover of being investors and apply for investment permits only for us to realise they are part of the human trafficking business,” she said.
Traffickers reportedly earn up to $10,000 to smuggle one person from Nepal, Pakistan or Bangladesh to Tanzania or South Africa. “They are often cheated and dumped,” she said, “leaving us with burden after burden.”
She declined to confirm or deny claims that some immigration officials have colluded with the traffickers and received bribes.