Fourteen Ethiopian nationals have pleaded guilty to a charge of entering the country illegally and have been fined 30,000/- each by the Resident Magistrates’ Court in Songea.
The illegal immigrants are part of a group of 23 aliens who were arrested in several areas at Ruvuma Region early last month, many of whom had claimed that they were en-route to South Africa via neighbouring Malawi.
Reading the court’s verdict, Resident Magistrate Aziza Lutala said she was satisfied that the immigrants were ready to take responsibility for their action, as evidenced by their pleading guilty to the offence as charged.
She subsequently ordered them to pay a fine of 30,000/- or, each serve a year in prison, adding that if they opted for a fine they would be remanded in custody for 28 days as the government finalized arrangements to deport them back to their home country.
They were jailed after they failed to pay the fines.
Earlier, Immigration department prosecutor Greta Banda had told the court that the accused were arrested on April 3, this year, at Ndelenyuma Madaba village in Songea Rural Distict.
According to the prosecution, the Ethiopians were found hiding in a dense forest awaiting transportation to South Africa via Malawi.
Banda further asked the court to adjourn hearing of the case against nine remaining defendants, all of whom Somali nationals, saying the Immigration office had not yet found an interpreter who speaks their language.
The case was adjourned to May 11, this year.