Alice Kamara, Chief Immigration Office (CIO), has said in a bid to protect children against exploitation and trafficking, strong defence is needed for the application of passports for children.
The CIO was at the launching ceremony of the Child Rights Coalition geared towards the protection of children against all forms of violence.
Child exploitation and trafficking are on the increase in the country and campaigners said the immigration department had a huge task in the protection of children.
Ms Alice Kamara told Awoko that the immigration department had a great role in the protection of children, stating that in acquiring a passport for a child “first you need to have a traveling document for him or her or adult before they are taken out. In fact when I took up appointment the first workshop I went to, we were shown a film wherein even parents traffic their children.”
Explaining what the immigration has done to ensure protection, she said “even when an aunt comes to represent the child at the interview, we refuse to allow the aunt as we ask for the biological parents.”
For those parents that are out of the country and need passports for their children, she explained that, “…they are abroad, so the lawyer not even the parents contact us. They have to have an advocate abroad who says I am going to make sure that when this child is abroad, the child is going to be safe before we can release a passport or a traveling document.”
She said it had been difficult for them at the immigration as they were most times challenged by parents on the issuance of passports to their children. “Somebody once wrote a scathing letter to me saying ‘that’s my child’ and I can do whatever I want to, but I replied that no that child is a Sierra Leonean child and we are protecting our children.” For a child to be adopted, Alice Kamara said, “once immigration is satisfied and has checked the adoption papers, we will allow the child to go but we do not have a system where we can follow up the whereabouts of these children.” By Ishmael Bayoh