IOM Tanzania Launches Migrant Registration Exercise in Kigoma

Tanzania - On 1st December, IOM Tanzania, in collaboration with the government, launched a voluntary migrant registration operation in Kigoma, Western Tanzania. The registration, which will initially last three weeks, is aimed at irregular Burundian, Rwandan and Ugandan migrants, who wish to regularize their status in Tanzania.

Immigration officers have been trained by IOM to use IOM's e-registration application, which captures the biographic and biometric data of migrants to support their applications for resident status in Tanzania. Two tents have been set up in Kigoma stadium, equipped with 15 registration units.

Each unit is manned by an immigration officer equipped with registration hardware, a laptop, webcam, fingerprint scanner, barcode scanner and card printer and reader.

For the past two weeks, IOM and the Tanzania Immigration Department have been conducting population mapping in the area to reach out to the target group to inform them of the exercise, as well as options for Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) to their countries of origin.

A team of immigration officers has also been working to advise irregular migrants in the completion of the verification form, required for registration.

With the results of the mapping work, officials anticipate a significant turnout for registration. Already as many as 1,600 heads of household have been provided with verification forms, representing more than 6,000 individuals.

IOM Tanzania Chief of Mission Damien Thuriaux said the registration marked a “turning point” for irregular migrants in Kigoma, who feared deportation since Operation Kimbunga began last year.

“The Tanzanian government is to be congratulated on its new approach to managing migration challenges in its border regions,” Mr. Thuriaux said. “Migrants now have a tangible option to regularize their immigration status, which is life-changing for all who will succeed. Should they not be seen as eligible, they can opt to return home with dignity, as well as with support and guidance from IOM.”

The registration exercise is taking place within the framework of the Humanitarian Support to Migrants in Western Tanzania programme, funded by the UK's Department for International Development and the Government of Japan.

The new programme was launched in response to a migration panic triggered last year by “Operation Kimbunga,” a so-called hurricane operation initiated by the Government in Tanzania, which resulted in approximately 65,000 irregular Burundian, Rwandan and Ugandan migrants residing in the border areas in North-Western Tanzania being forcibly expelled.

Many irregular migrants from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda live in the region. Their migration background varies – some came to Tanzania for seasonal agricultural work – others have lived in Tanzania for decades and many are married to Tanzanians.

The registration will give them a chance to apply for residence permits and regularize their status in Tanzania. By registering, migrants will be provided with a protection card – valid for two years, and then renewable once, for a second two-year period – securing their stay in Tanzania, pending the outcome of the screening process. Migrants wishing to return to their home countries can seek IOM's assistance to be voluntarily returned through IOM’s AVR programme. 

IOM has successfully advocated for a comprehensive and protection-sensitive migration management approach in Tanzania, promoting regularization of status, as well as voluntary return assistance through AVR.

This has included trainings for immigration officers on humanitarian border management, as well as two trainings on the e-registration application and use of registration hardware, to provide immigration officers with the knowledge and skills to effectively assist the target population during the registration.

The ongoing population mapping has shown that the Tanzania Immigration Department is fully committed to a civilian process whereby the target population is approached in a humane and dignified manner, signalling a sea-change from Operation Kimbunga.

For more information, please contact

Damien Thuriaux

IOM Tanzania

Tel +255 786 585 853