Kenya has introduced work permit requirements for foreigners and issued deterrent legal measure to those found engaging aliens without requisite documents.
The new requirement which seem to target Tanzanians in retaliation of what Kenyans living in that country underwent in early March started in Namanga on Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview with Kajiado County Commissioner, Harsama Kello, on Thursday morning on phone, he said any foreigner coming to the country must pass through immigration offices at the border.
“This is not a new law, it has been there and we now want to enforce it. We have been reluctant to our neighbours because of the cohesion that has been in existence until they (Tanzania) decided to kick out our people,” said Kello.
Kello said the decision to apply the law was agreed upon between the various stakeholders in government after President John Magufuli threw out Kenyans working and doing businesses in March, this year, on claims they did not have legal documents.
The county commissioner said Kenya will not arrest Tanzanians working in the country but had given then one week to seek requisite documents such as passports, work permits and residential permits as is specified by law.
The week ended on Thursday and the police have been instructed to take action against those found to have broken the law.
Kello said employers found to have engaged aliens who do not posses requisite documents will attract a court fine amounting to Sh5 million.
The administrator said while Tanzania is charging East African residents Sh60, 000 for work permits, Kenya will issue out the same freely.
It is estimated that there are more than 500, 000 Tanzanians living and working in Kenya, including those in their embassy in Nairobi.
The county commissioner said all the business interests in Namanga town side of the country have been invaded by Tanzanians, who have taken up 80 per cent of the market stalls, bar businesses, employment in hotels, beer outlets, hotels, petrol stations and foreign exchange bureaus.
Namanga Divisional assistant county commissioner, Alex Mutua, said by Wednesday evening all the aliens working as bartenders in the town had crossed over to Tanzania after their employers “released” them for fear the legal implication.
“Today, our police officers, immigration officials and Nyumba Kumi ambassadors will be moving from door-to-door in search of alien house attendants believed to be above 5, 000 aliens.
Kenyans prefer engaging Tanzanians because of low wages they accept on employment.
In January, this year, President Magufuli introduced new work permit requirements for foreign nationals.
The move caused unease in the region, with the East African Business Council (EABC) calling on Dar to reconsider measures, which it said are contrary to the EAC Common Market Protocol.
A notice issued last year from Tanzania’s Prime Minister’s office indicated that all foreigners wishing to work in the country would be required to obtain separate work and residence permits.
The EABC said the move undermined the Common Market Protocol, which allows for free movement of people, goods and services in the bloc.
“Tanzania should reconsider the step of introducing the work permit fees in addition to the resident permit fees. The government had progressively reduced and finally zero-rated these fees like the other East African countries,” said Lilian Awinja, acting executive director at EABC, who was quoted exclusively by news agencies.
As per the notice, work permits for those employed in Tanzania under Class B (a person who has been offered a specific job by a specific employer and he or she has the required qualifications and experience) will now cost an additional $1000 over the usual $2050.
Those with dependants will pay an extra $500 to obtain the dependant pass.
The new requirement does not differentiate between EAC nationals and citizens of countries outside the region.
While Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have waived work permit fees for East African Community citizens to encourage free movement of labour, Tanzania maintains the restrictions for EAC citizens and other foreigners.
Work permit fees in Tanzania range between $2,000 and $3,000, a tidy sum for small and medium enterprise companies with low turnover.
In Burundi, it ranges from $60 to $84, Uganda charges $250 per year for work permits for missionaries, volunteers and $1,500 for businessmen and consultants. Kenya, charges $1,976 for foreign workers.
Two Tanzanian companies have already been penalised for going against this requirement.
Sunflag Tanzania Ltd, a textiles firm was penalised $12,560 for having employees without work contracts while Lodhia Industries which manufactures plastics and metal products was fined $14,355.
The two companies were also penalised for employing foreign workers whose permits indicated different types of jobs contrary to what they are doing.
Ms Awinja said a longer and costly process of placing workers would impact negatively on businesses already grappling with high energy costs, high operational costs, the cost of air transport, telecommunications, and a high wage bill among others.
She said Tanzania should be pursuing policy reforms that reduce the overall cost of doing business.