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Sierra Leone News: New technologies will aid effective border management

A total of 23,648 visitors were recorded by the National Tourist Board for the period January to June 2017. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) 74,400 visitors landed in Lungi in 2016 which was a significant increase compared to 24,000 in 2015.
Sierra Leone has been described by UNTWO as one of the fastest growing travel destinations in recent years. This puts additional pressure on customs and border agencies who are responsible to facilitate the legitimate movement of people and goods into and out of the country.
In light of these figures, the Director of Administration and Finance, Alusine Ayoub Joaque, at the Immigration Department has called for measures to ease the burden on stretched border resources. He suggested a substantial investment is required in new technologies amounting to a major upgrade in their border infrastructure.
Sierra Leone is one of those fragile countries, which has so many border problems. These problems have to do with safety and security, he said.
He said they are now concentrating on the integrity of their officials to build a very strong border security management system. “We want to be able to recruit people who will support us in achieving that goal, as we move towards more modern requirements.”
“We have established five new immigration border posts. Managing the border posts is the biggest problem we have in irregular migration, particularly when it comes to our immediate neighbors Guinea, Liberia.”
Joaque went on to say that there are over 800 crossing points across this country. In Koinadugu there are 36 crossing points and 24 in Kailahun. “We are identifying strategic locations in which we can establish border posts gradually because we don’t have the money to establish posts across the country. That will enable us monitor and patrol other areas within the immediate environs.”
The department, he said, is planning to develop an electronic database on migration activity. “This is ongoing. It is necessary for us to connect across the country. We have introduced the data system at the Lungi International airport.” The electronic system has replaced the passenger information and registration system. “We are making progress to get it at Gendema on the Liberian side and Gbalamuya on the Guinean side,” he assured.
He evinced that they are engaged in counter-terrorist activities by training their officials on document detection and fraud. “90% of managing irregular migration and terrorist activities has to do with document detection, authentication and ensuring the person carrying the passport is the same man that is standing in front of you.”
Unfortunately, he said in as much as they want to manage the borders to avert terrorism, he said they also have the responsibility to look at the rights of those migrants crossing the borders.
The country does not have the facilities to look after people with questionable backgrounds. “The best we can do is hand them over to the police, so you have to be sure that what you are doing is right, before you deprive that person from their particular flight.”
By Zainab Joaque
Monday September 11, 2017.

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