Syndicate mints billions By Tom Mosoba THE CITIZEN A commission of inquiry has revealed how a syndicate of human traffickers was minting billions of shillings from smuggling mainly Somali and Ethiopian immigrants through Tanzania. The traffickers, it has been estimated, raked in between Sh146 million and Sh3 billion from aiding 1279 illegal immigrants who have so far been arrested by Tanzanian authorities. The government backed investigation team, tasked to investigate the influx of Somali and Ethiopian immigrants, has established that the human runners charge each of the suspects between $95 (about Sh109,250) and $2000 (about Sh2.3 million) as the cost of trafficking them into the country The huge profit posted by the syndicate underlines the extent to which traffickers were ready to continue fueling the illegal business. The team, for example, found out that the illegal trade was backed by people employed permanently to run the trafficking errands. A report on the trafficking prepared by the investigating team was yesterday presented to the minister for Home Affairs, Mr Laurence Masha. The team comprised government officials and those from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, International Crescent of Red Cross, International Organisation for Migration and Red Cross Tanzania. It was picked after public concerns on the high number of immigrants being arrested in the country. Minister Masha said the government would take appropriate steps to implement recommendations to curb the menace that has seen local prisons full with foreigners serving sentences or awaiting deportation to their countries. The report indicated that at least 1279 immigrants were by March this year being held in Tanzania prisons. The number is, however, likely to be higher following the arrest a week ago of more than 100 suspects in Bagamoyo district while thousands others have gone undetected. The trafficking business has thrived often through handsome kickbacks paid to authorities and operators involved in the transportation chain from their points of entry and exit. The team said the border between Kenya and Tanzania in Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions was notorious for letting in illegal immigrants. There were 470 backstreet routes used for trafficking them from the Horn of Africa, they noted. The team recommended that the government should empower and strengthen its security and immigration agencies along the borders to fight the well-equipped operators. It should also evolve a strategy on how to crack down the syndicate. Most Somali and Ethiopian immigrants who were escaping civil wars in their countries used Tanzania as an escape route to Southern Africa countries from where they planned their flights to Europe and America. It has been claimed that their wealthy relatives who found their way overseas through legal and illegal means were financing their trafficking. Last year, The Citizen revealed inside dealings between these financiers and operators of some of the money changing bureaus in Kenya and Tanzania through which the money was wired to fund the trafficking activities.