The United Republic of Tanzania’s location on Africa’s east coast and its political stability relative to its neighbours has always exposed it to a variety of migration flows – as a country of origin, transit and destination.

Border movement is significant, with eight neighbouring countries to the north, west and south and a long coastline to the east with several natural harbours. Migration to, within and from the country produces a complex and ever changing picture. The trend has been dominated by large movements of migrants from rural to urban areas, large movement of refugees to Northwest Tanzania from neighbouring countries, international labour migration and irregular migration.

Tanzania is designated as one of the eight pilot countries for the United Nations’ “Delivering as One” reform program. The “Delivering as One” reform involves streamlining programs, focusing on areas where the UN can have an impact, reducing duplication of effort and making more effective use of human and financial resources. As other pilot countries, UN Tanzania is continuously testing new working methods and tools. As a UN related organization, IOM operates within the United Nations Development Assistance Plan (UNDAP II) 2016-2021, a single plan for all UN funds, programmes and agencies in Tanzania, a successor to the UNDPA (2011-2016) that was concluded in 2016. IOM Tanzania’s primary focus is upon active delivery within the Social Protection and the Refugees Programme Working Groups in the areas listed below. More information about each area is available in the "Programmes" section.  

Humanitarian Support to Refugees in Western Tanzania

Since April 2015, over 124,000 Burundians have fled to Tanzania as a result of political instability. As the lead transportation agency, IOM has transported over 100,000 refugees by land and water to refugee camps, in accordance with the Government of Tanzania’s encampment policy. Once overcrowding at Nyarugusu Refugee Camp reached a critical level, with a population of over 150,000 residing in a camp intended for a population of 50,000, the international community worked with the Government to relocate refugees to two new sites, Nduta and Mtendeli. Relocation to Nduta began on 5 October 2015 and relocation to Mtendeli began in January 2016. 

IOM’s activities under this project are funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) and by the Government of Norway through the UN OneFund. This project is carried out in conjunction with the Government of Tanzania and UN organisations (under the overall coordination of the UNHCR) as part of the Burundi Refugee Regional Response Plan. IOM intends to continue to facilitate the timely and dignified transportation of Burundian refugees.


The United Republic of Tanzania Is a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and in the past 40 years, it has hosted one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. As of 1 January 2016, a total of  28 October 2015, a total of 191,063 refugees in the region are hosted in three camps in the Kigoma region in north western Tanzania: Nyarugusu Refugee Camp, Nduta Refugee Camp and Mtendeli Refugee Camp. The largest population in the camps are the newly arrived refugees from Burundi, as a result of the influx which started in April 2015 and is still ongoing.

The refugee resettlement program is targeting the protracted caseload of Congolese refugees who have been residing in Nyarugusu Refugee Camp for more than 20 years. It is intended that approximately 30,000 individuals will be referred to the USRAP over the next five to seven years. To assist with this process, IOM:

  1. Conducts medical screening of refugees accepted for resettlement;
  2. Provides logistical arrangements and travel assistance for refugees scheduled to depart to their country of resettlement
  3. Organises cultural orientation sessions for refugees accepted for resettlement on request from IOM Nairobi and RSC Africa
Mixed Migration

The Mixed Migration Unit works on issues that are connected to mixed migration flows throughout Tanzania’s region.  Mixed migration flows are complex population movements including refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants, smuggled migrants, unaccompanied minors and other migrants. These are characterized with regular (documented) and irregular (undocumented) migrants. Projects and activities of the unit to assist such individuals are as follows:

Equipment and Infrastructure support to the Government of Tanzania

In response to the mass deportation of irregular migrants which took place under “Operation Kimbunga” in 2013, IOM collaborated with the Government to register over 22,282 irregular migrants in the Kigoma region in 2014 and 2015. IOM facilitated the purchase of e-registration equipment and registered over 22,282 irregular migrants in the Kigoma region in western Tanzania between 2014 and 2015. The project, which was funded by the UK Department for International Development, ensured that the migrants registered would have a protected stay of two years in the country. IOM is planning to conduct a verification exercise of migrants registered under this program and to extend the e-registration exercise to other regions in Tanzania.

Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) of Migrants

IOM Tanzania has collaborated with the Government to facilitate the return of stranded migrants to their home countries and to assist the process of reintegration into their communities. IOM Tanzania has assisted the AVRR of 3216 migrants to date and in 2016, plans to assist a further 500 migrants. The AVRR programme is funded by the Government of Japan and by the EU.

Workshop and Capacity Building Events

In collaboration with the Government and with funding by the EU, IOM has organized capacity building events to raise awareness and to train law enforcement officials and media on the aspects of mixed migration flows.

Outreach Activities

Outreach campaigns are organised to increase the public’s awareness of the complexities of irregular migration and to enhance understanding on migrants’ rights.

Migration and Health

IOM’s migration health programs include activities in the Partnership on Health and Mobility in Southern and Eastern Africa (PHAMESA) program and the provision of services for migration health assessments, travel assistance and health promotion and assistance for migrants.

The PHAMESA programme offers a comprehensive public health approach, addressing health concerns that particularly affect migrants and mobile populations with focus on HIV prevention, treatment and care, and related conditions like TB and reproductive health. PHAMESA aims to improve the management of migration health and reduce migrants’ vulnerability to HIV by responding to their health needs throughout all phases of the migration process. Under the PHAMESA project, IOM is a recognized partner in key coordination structures such as the:

  1. Technical Working Group (TWG) on TB in the Mining Sector
  2. TWG of Tanzanian AIDS Commission on HIV in Mining
  3. National Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group on Ebola Prevention

Aside from undertaking health assessments for resettled refugees, since 2005 IOM has also been providing pulmonary tuberculosis screening for individuals applying for a visa to the United Kingdom for a stay of more than six months upon the request of the UK Immigration Authorities in London (coordinated with the Health Department).

Counter Trafficking

Irregular movements of migrants from the Horn of Africa, through Tanzania, to South Africa and beyond have increased during the last years. Tanzania has been identified as a country of origin, transit and destination for trafficked persons. The country is characterized by large movements of migrants from its rural to urban areas and many of these internal migrants are at great risk of being trafficked. In Tanzania, IOM’s work in counter trafficking is focused on capacity building and awareness raising activities with the Tanzanian Government, civil society organizations and the general public. Its activities are as follows:

  1. Capacity Building and technical assistance to the Tanzanian Anti-Trafficking Committee
  2. Assistance to victims of trafficking through partnerships with local NGOs
  3. Training of trainers on child trafficking and delivery of assistance services to victims
  4. Mapping of service providers and referral networks
Migration and/for Development

Migration for Development has long been a strategic focus of IOM’s work, to maximize the positive relationship which exists between migration and development. The programme’s objective is to contribute to the international community’s goal of harnessing the development potential of migration, to benefit host societies and migrants.

One of the major challenges to development facing Tanzania and many other African countries is the loss of valuable human resources associated with high emigration flows. This process has affected several key sectors like health and education, and has contributed to a huge human resource gap in terms of skilled professionals. Globally, among governments, agencies and other actors involved in development issues, there is an increasing trend of recognizing the human resource gap as a case of brain drain and to explore avenues for diaspora to contribute to development in their home countries.

IOM’s Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) initiative was created over a decade ago to address the human resource gap by engaging the diaspora in short term assignments in their home countries and through the transfer and sharing of knowledge and skills. Tanzania’s first ever diaspora conference was held in 2014. The following projects are currently being run in close collaboration with the Government of Tanzania:

  1. Enhancing the migration evidence base for the development of Tanzania. This project is funded by IOM Development Fund and aims to improve the evidence base on migration through the creation of a national Migration Profile and the creation of a Diaspora Web portal.
  2. Supporting the Government to formulate strategic interventions towards effective and sustainable labour migration management and information sharing in Tanzania.
African Capacity Building Centre

In 2009, the African Capacity Building Centre (ACBC) was established in Moshi to enhance the migration management capacity of African States, promote comprehensive migration governance and facilitate a diverse range of immigration and border management projects and training courses. The ACBC is hosted by the Tanzania Regional Immigration Training Academy (TRITA) and this unique partnership has benefited both in terms of joint training programmes and workshops as well as regional support. Between 2009 and 2015, the ACBC has trained 3890 immigration and border management officials from 47 different African states in 158 training sessions.