Zanzibar withdraws passports of unregistered Comorians

28 08 2009

By Mwinyi Sadallah

27th August 2009

Zanzibar authorities have embarked on a special exercise to withdraw passports issued to Zanzibar residents originating from Comoro who had failed to apply for citizenship as directed in 1968 by the first President of the Isles, the late Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume.

According to Zanzibar Immigration Commissioner, Mwinchum Hassan Salum, the move is intended to thoroughly scrutinise the register to verify the status of individuals and identify all unqualified Tanzanians with Comorian origin for immediate withdrawal of their passports.

”The passports were issued accidentally to some residents with Comorian origin,” the Commissioner confirmed in reaction to widespread complaints that the exercise was discriminatory and politically motivated.

He said that the late President Karume had in 1968 ordered all Zanzibaris with Comorian origin to register themselves together with their children so that they could be entitled to all rights enjoyed by other Tanzanians.

Salum however said, the Immigration register indicated that some Comorians who enrolled in the register were granted certificates of naturalisation, but those who did not register were not bona fide Tanzanians and therefore their passports must be withdrawn forthwith so that they can apply for naturalization or risk legal action.

He argued that as per Chapter 39 of the Laws of Zanzibar, the status of the people of the Comorian origin were not the Sultan subjects and were therefore considered as “aliens.”

By law, he said, these people have no other legal options except to register and apply for a certificate of naturalization.

He added that as per the Law of Tanzania every person who was a citizen of Tanganyika immediately before the Union Day shall be deemed to have become a citizen of the United Republic on Union Day.

The Isles immigration chief further said in accordance with the law in force in Zanzibar on Revolution Day, January 12, 1964, a Zanzibar subject shall on that day be deemed to have become a citizen of the United Republic of Tanzania.

He advised all the Comorians living in Zanzibar to know their immigration status and that those not qualified for Tanzanian citizenship should register with the Immigration and apply for naturalization.

The Commissioner defended the government’s decision, arguing that the exercise was not politically motivated and that it was purely a legal matter.

He elaborated that the “passport withdrawal practice” would not include some members of the Comorian Society who are either Tanzanians by descent from their fathers or mothers.

Asked for comments, some members of the Comorian Society living here wanted the Immigration Office to publish a list of all the people who had registered in 1968 to enable them to know their nationality status.

They said the “passport withdrawal practice” had affected them psychologically and some had been affected to the extent of loosing their jobs.

They requested the Isles President Amani Abeid Karume to intervene on the issue.

On his part, the Minister of State in the Zanzibar Chief Minister2s Office, Hamza Hassan Juma has requested the Comorians to go to the Immigration Office to find out their nationality status and abide by the laws of the land.





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