Since October, 2012, Sierra Leone’s immigration officers have used advanced biometric systems to process and positively identify travelers coming in and out of the country through the Lungi International Airport. The systems are provided and maintained by Securiport, a well established American company which was awarded the contract through a public tender, where two other firms also submitted offers. Securiport books have been audited by the General Auditor.
The government’s satisfaction with Securiport’s performance has been expressed in several letters of commendation from the highest national authorities. The Ministers of Internal Affairs, Immigration and Transport have confirmed that Securiport fully and effectively complied to its-contractual agreement with the government and on a timely manner: I would like to take the time to thank you for the excellent level of service you have provided the government of Sierra Leone, said Alpha Kholifa Koroma, the Chief Immigration Officer. He continued to say that because of Securiport’s contribution: the immigration department has been undeniably strengthened.
Likewise, Interpol has commended Securiport for having fully integrated the Lungi systems with that organization’s watchlists, having identified various wanted individuals attempting to enter Sierra Leone. From a letter sent to the company by Interpol: The Securiport personnel as increased fundamentally the impact of the mission of Interpol, to combat Transnational Organized Crime.
Conscious of the importance of its work in protecting the country at its entry points, Securiport stayed working shoulder to shoulder with the Government throughout the Ebola crisis, and even delayed the collection of its professional fees during that period. Although the company is owed back fees, there has been no action taken against the government on behalf of Securiport as the company believes in the future of the nation and its honesty and integrity for this payment.
However, Securiport has been maliciously attacked in an article obviously promoted by terrorists and organized mafias interested in downgrading the immigration controls at the Lungi airport, with false and slanderous accusations not only against the company but also against the government which strives to make Sierra Leone a safer place. These entities, which would like to pass undetected through Sierra Leones immigration controls, seem to have recruited some elements of the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority to spearhead the attack against Securiport, promoting the replacement of the Securiport systems with others of inferior quality provided by another firm, although that company did not participated in the tender that awarded Securiport’s contract.
The following is a statement by Securiport’s management:
SECURIPORT CONFRONTS THE INTEREST GROUPS AGAINST THE SECURITY OF PASSENGERS IN SIERRA LEONE
1. Securiport is a well-reputed US Corporation acting worldwide under the highest ethical standards and within the US Anti- Corruption act. We reject any irresponsible allegations of wrong doing in connection to our services contracted with the Republic of Sierra Leone. We have instructed our Legal Counsel to assess actions against those ultimately responsible for false statements published in the Standard Times on Jan 11, 2016.
2. The cost of the Immigration Control System service that Securiport has been installed at Lungi International Airport is to be paid, as in any other country in the world, by the international passengers as beneficiaries of the quality security they are provided.
3. The SL Civil Aviation Authority has systematically opposed to require that the passengers to pay for the security services provided to them as is done in every other country in the world under false pretenses many times rebuked by facts provided by Securiport. .
4. The outstanding debt to Securiport is the result of the non-application of the security fee on the airline tickets of international passengers for the debt that the Government of Sierra Leone should have never incurred in. This is the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority, in accordance with Securiport’s contract with the government.
5. It is FALSE that airlines are not interested in security and in passport verification in particular. IATA Director General, Tony Tyler, has clearly stated that: “It is the responsibility of governments to ensure their borders are secure”. He made this statement in a news conference at the Geneva headquarters of IATA, after the Malaysian Airlines tragedy, when it was found that two Iranian passengers bordered the flight with stolen passports from Italian and Austrian nationals. “If governments are being provided with a very comprehensive database (by Interpol) of lost and stolen passports, why aren’t they using it?” the IATA chief added. (The Malaysian Insider, 12 March 2014).
6. Interpol’s Secretary General, Ronald Noble, argued later that airport checks are not adequate enough to catch the estimated 28 million stolen passports and identity cards in circulation. “The number one risk confronting airlines and countries around the world is the risk terrorists or other dangerous persons will carry a fraudulent identity document and move from one country to another.” He said. Last year 40,000 passengers were caught with fraudulently obtained documents. The number would be higher if every passport was checked against the database of stolen documents as a matter of routine. “It’s a serious matter of concern.” Mr. Noble added. (The Telegraph, 07 June 2011).
7. Last month, the Securiport enrollment system detected four cases of stolen passports included in the Interpol watch list which was precisely what Malaysian authorities were not able to do in spite of the fact that the two above mentioned stolen passports had been uploaded to the Interpol list 48 hours before the catastrophe (because they lacked the means to do it). Today, in Sierra Leone all enrollment details of the passengers on the Interpol watch list are being provided in a timely and satisfactory manner to NCB-Freetown. The further integration of Interpol tools and services with Securiport’s Integrated Immigration Control System is essential in the fight against wanted terrorists, drugs traffickers and other organized crime activities.
8. The Satisfaction Letters shown below by Interpol, The Ministries of Immigration, Internal Affairs and Transport confirm that our services are being provided with quality, effectiveness and efficiency.
9. A report by the Auditor General of the Republic of Sierra Leone is underway to confirm the outstanding debt. However, upon request of the Government of Sierra Leone, and as a sign of continuing solidarity with the nation, Securiport has offered the Government a settlement agreement on the outstanding debt that includes a discount over the current balance.
10. We renew our commitment to continue working in Sierra Leone for the benefit of the country.