Q&A – 23 January 2012

Powers of Immigration Officials

I am a business owner in Dar es Salaam having local and foreign employees working for me. There has been an incident which really ruined my reputation and business in general. Immigration officials raided my office in the midst of a busy day, turned my office upside down, placed all of us including my clients under arrest refusing anyone from entering or leaving the office. The officers from immigration had no warrant to search, nor did they give notice. I was invaded like they owned the office taking with them some confidential documents. Can they do this? What are the general powers of immigration?
JF, Dar

The Immigration Act of Tanzania provides for the duties and powers of the immigration officials in general. The act provides that the immigration officials have power to enter into any premises at reaso¬nable hours and search the said premises without a warrant. They also have the power to take documents which are related to immigration issues including the power to demand the same from the persons who seem to be immigrants, and hence it is often recommended that those on work permits should carry a certified copy of the permit.

Immigration also have the power to arrest the persons who lack relevant documents entitling them to be in Tanzania. If any person is arrested, he must be presented to the Magistrate of the nearest Court as soon as possible. However, under the Law, they are not authorized to use excessive force during the whole process. Unless anyone was physically harmed due to use of excessive force or someone was arrested and not taken to Court fast enough or that they came during unreasonable hours, the law allows them to do all the acts that they did when they came to your office.

All said and done, they must treat all persons with dignity. In your instance your major complaint seems to be on the manner they ambushed you and treated your staff. This undignified approach can be reported to the Director of Immigration who may investigate this incident. Your last part of the question is on the general powers of the Immigration department. We reproduce some key ones for your general reference.

The law states that any immigration officer may-
(a). interrogate, or scrutinize the passport of any person who desires to enter or leave Tanzania or my person who he has reasonable grounds for believing to be a prohibited immigrant and, when he has reason to suspect any infringement of any provision of this Act, or any regulations made hereunder, interrogate or scrutinize the passport of any person who he believes can give information regarding Such infringement; (b) require any person who has entered or who desires to enter or leave Tanzania to make and sign any prescribed form of declaration and submit himself to examination by a medical practitioner; (c) require the master of a ship, the captain of an aircraft, the guard of a train or the person in charge of a vehicle arriving from or leaving any place outside Tanzania to furnish a list in duplicate, signed by himself or his agent or other person authorized to do so on his behalf, of the names of all persons in the ship, aircraft, train or vehicle and to furnish such other information as may be (d) if he has reasonable cause to suspect that any person has contravened any of the provisions of this Act or of any regulations made hereunder or that the presence in Tanzania of any person is unlawful, and if he is of opinion that in order to prevent justice from being defeated it is necessary to arrest such person immediately arrest any such person without warrant, and such person shall be brought before a magistrate as soon as is practicable; (e) require the production to him of any proof or evidence which he may consider necessary to substantiate any statement, either verbal or written, made for the purpose of obtaining any permit, pass or other authorization which may be issued under the provisions of this Act; (f) enter upon any premises at all reasonable hours and investigate any matter relating to immigration; (g) require any person to produce to him any document which such person may be carrying or conveying.

For the purposes of discharging his functions under this Act, an immigration officer may- without warrant, stop, enter board and search any aircraft, train, vehicle, vessel, ship, building, premises, godown, container, boat or any part thereof, of Tanzania.

From the above you can seee that the powers of immigration officers are quite wide. However it is not uncommon for them to misuse such powers. For example they can only take documents that are relevnt to immigration and not otherwise.

You must understand that immigration Tanzania has the tough task of balancing between ensuring that locals get employment vis a vis specialist jobs that require foreign persons. All countries do have such protectionist policies to ensure the employment of its people. There are also instances of companies not complying with the law that leads to genuine companies suffering from such raids, which we agree are not always carried out within the boundaries of the law.

Purchase of shares outside Tanzania

There is a company in UK which has advertised for sale of shares. It is a very reputable company and I wish to invest in it. Do I have to get consent from any authorities in Tanzania prior to investing? I am going to use my funds and don’t understand why permission is required.
WP, Dar

Under Tanzanian law, if a person wishes to invest in a non Tanzanian company which is out of Tanzania he or she must notify and get consent from the Bank of Tanzania. Yes it is your money, but such provisions are there to ensure that there is no flight of capital from Tanzania. As a developing country Tanzania is trying to get its people to invest in its homeland to boost the local economy. And yes, the Bank of Tanzania has powers to disallow you to invest overseas.