October 6, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Director of Administration and Finance at the Sierra Leone Immigration Department in Freetown has in an exclusive interview with Concord Times urged that immigration officers be provided with paramilitary personnel training and allowed to carry arms, so as to maintain proper border control across the country’s porous borders.
Alusine A Joaque revealed that within the Mano River Union basin only Sierra Leone immigration officers do not carry arms.
He disclosed that the Immigration department is grossly understaff and finds it difficult to carry out activities, including but not limited to securing the country’s borders as people freely move within the West Africa Sub-region.
Mr. Joaque further noted that they were finding it difficult to properly screen people moving into and out of the country, adding that proper screening was essential as the country approaches the general elections.
Joaque is of the view that if government allows immigration personnel to carry arms such would boost their confidence in protecting the country’s borders.
‘’Sierra Leone Immigration service is currently not allowed to carry fire arms, so the border patrol units are literally manning the borders with their bare hands,’’ Joaque said, adding that immigration officers often carryout raids not necessary because residents from other countries do not have appropriate documentation, but to monitor the number of foreigners in the country.
He opined that there was strong link between irregular migration and global terrorism, thus emphasising the need for increased number of immigration personnel not only at the border crossing points, but also within towns and cities.
“We have trained 30 personnel to secure the borders. We are patrolling the borders to make sure that the country is secured. As immigration officers, we are not armed carries and there are certain situations where you get armed criminals crossing our borders. I want an immigration department that would stand the test of time, an immigration that can effectively manage it borders. We want the manpower and we can have paramilitary personnel because Liberia has armed personnel, Guinea and Ghana the same. It is only Sierra Leone that has civilian immigration officers,” he concluded.