At least 250 Malawians working as house and shopkeepers in Tanzania were last week arrested, tried and fined one million Tanzania Shillings (K357 000) each for entering and staying in that country without permits.
Those who have failed to pay the fine have been slapped with a six-month jail term, and will only be repatriated after the expiry of the jail term.
Songwe Immigration Office spokesperson Yusuf Shaibu said in an interview yesterday that those arrested are all from Nkhata Bay and have been illegally staying in Dar es Salam, most of them working as house and shopkeepers.
“Reports indicate that Tanzanian authorities last Friday announced that they would wish to meet all foreigners to process their documents to enable them stay legally in that country. “This idea attracted most Malawians living in the country. They went to the said meeting only to find Police and Immigration vehicles awaiting them,” explained Shaibu.
He said, according to some Malawian sources, they were taken to Buguruni Police where they were told to fill residential permit application forms, but surprisingly they were eventually told that they were under arrest for illegal stay.
Added Shaibu: “They were further taken to Chisutu High Court on Monday, where some were ordered to pay a fine of one million Tanzanian Shillings while others were told to pay 500 000 shillings, or in default, to serve a six-month jail term, and thereafter be repatriated to Malawi.”
He said those that failed to pay the fines were sent to Ukongwa and Segerea prisons, where they will be working in maize, tobacco and banana plantations.
One of the victims, Naomi Zeki Ng’oma, who paid her fine, told Immigration authorities at Songwe Border Post that Malawians are being mistreated in different ways in Tanzania. “Those imprisoned include children, expectant women and helpless aged persons.
It is difficult to get food in jail, but there are also various forms of torture. People are beaten up,” she said, adding that some of the affected people are on antiretroviral treatment. Ng’oma, who comes from Kaimika Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Malanda, Nkhata Bay has since pleaded with government to facilitate swift repatriation of the Malawians jailed in Tanzania over illegal stay.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Francis Kasaila said government is aware of the issue, and that the mission in Tanzania has started processes aimed at repatriating those trapped. The minister has, however, advised Malawians to always travel with relevant documents.
“This is a general problem because we also have people from other countries coming to Malawi without proper documents and we have, in conjunction with their countries, to process their repatriation. “You know countries have to check seriously because illegal immigrants pose a security risk. Much as we have regional integration, we still need that to be backed by proper documents,” said Kasaila.
In January and April this year, at least 24 Malawians, also from Nkhata Bay, were deported from Dodoma, Tanzania for illegal stay in that country.
Meanwhile, some of the 1 103 Malawians trapped at South Africa’s holding facility in Johannesburg, Lindela, last Wednesday appeared before court to answer charges of illegal stay or lack of work permits.