By Betty Milton, Information Attache, Sierra Leone Embassy, Brussels
Brussels, BELGIUM – In alignment with President Julius Maada Bio’s agenda to fortify Sierra Leone’s immigration systems, Hon. Alusine Kanneh, Chief Immigration Officer, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Belgium Immigration Office in Brussels on December 19th, 2023.
The MOU is designed to facilitate collaboration between the two institutions, primarily focusing on strategic immigration issues such as border control, security intelligence exchange programs, technical cooperation, and the exchange of information.
Hon. Kanneh highlighted the longstanding relationship between the two institutions, emphasizing the shared commitment to strengthening border security and promoting bilateral cooperation. The MOU is expected to yield substantial benefits for Sierra Leone, particularly in migration matters.
During the signing ceremony, Hon. Kanneh revealed that, before the MOU, the number of Sierra Leoneans seeking asylum in Belgium was significantly lower than that of other African nationals. He referred to a report from the Belgium Immigration Office, which indicated that only one Sierra Leonean sought asylum in Belgium annually.
Hon. Kanneh stressed the importance of issuing Schengen visas in Sierra Leone and expressed optimism about engaging in discussions with Belgian authorities regarding its implementation. He also requested capacity-building programs from his Belgian counterparts, recognizing the significance of training on border control and immigration issues for national security.
“Our visit will help strengthen institutions like Immigration to ensure that the right thing is done. Immigration is the gateway to any country. This is also a learning process, and we are learning about their policies, systems, and procedures, which we hope to adopt and implement to ensure best practices,” Hon. Kanneh concluded.
Frederick Rosemont, Director-General of the Belgium Migration Office, expressed gratitude to the CIO for visiting Brussels and signing the MOU on behalf of the government. He assured that concerns raised during the engagement, including short-term capacity-building programs for Sierra Leone’s immigration officers starting next year, would be addressed.
The CIO and his team, including Mr. Allieu Bakarr Conteh, Director of Admin and Finance, Mr. James Cooper, Assistant Border Management, and Mrs Patricia Kargobai, Senior Immigration Officer, visited various holding centres and the Belgium Printrak (system fingerprint) as part of their visit.
Presentations by senior staff of the Services focused on a multidisciplinary approach to combating human trafficking and border management, contributing to the shared goal of enhancing immigration systems for both nations.