The Western Area Immigration Officer, Abdul Karim Bangura, has said non Sierra Leoneans are required by law to register with the Immigration Department.
Speaking to Awoko yesterday at his Immigration office, he said the non citizens’ registration Act provided for them to register at the start of every year but that they had observed that there had not been compliance over the years.
He said with penalty put in place for non registration, lots of foreign nationals were registering even though he did not give figures as to how many are in the country or how many so far have registered.
“When we go out to check we will find out that many of them have overstayed and when we question them they will say they forgot and in order to keep them on guard, we are sensitizing them to register or face the penalty,” he said
Mr Bangura noted that, “there are lots of illegal immigrants in the country and the reason why we have them is because there are lots of border crossing points due to our porous borders as there are not enough personnel to man them. These illegal immigrants are not only based in Freetown but you have lots of them in the provinces.” Speaking about ECOWAS citizens, he said they too were not exempted. “The only advantage the ECOWAS citizens have here is that we do not issue them with visas when they are coming in as it is the protocol we have signed with other ECOWAS states but if they are here they are supposed to register despite their free movements of coming in and going out as long as they have the required documents.”
He said, “mature ECOWAS citizens pay Le 50,000 per year, their dependants pay Le 20,000 whilst the kids pay about Le5-10,000. Even with this meager pay they hardly come to pay and when you go to them they will say they forgot and at times when you take actions considering the cost involved it will be more than what you receive from them. So that is why we encourage them to pay”.
About the non ECOWAS citizens like the Indians, Lebanese, Chinese, Koreans and other nationals, he said they paid huge amounts. “For Lebanese, Indians and Chinese that are employees they pay Le 3,000,000 and for those that are coming in for businesses like mining or any other business, they pay about Le 5,000,000.
Because this area is revenue generation, much emphasis are placed upon it.” He said before any non citizen is registered an authentic work permit was first needed from the ministry of Labour. “Sometimes we do not know who gave them the authority to travel as some will want to come and invest whilst others turned out to be genuine investors but as long as they are in the country, they are supposed to register.
At times some do not come through our manned checkpoints as there are large numbers of them especially those who go to the diamondiferous areas or those who come to do odd jobs do not enter Freetown the legal way as they used many of our entry points,” he charged By Ishmael Bayoh