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Immigration Boss to Put Sierra Leone on World Map

By  | 8 October 2014 at 22:16 | 3186 views

The Immigration Service in Sierra Leone is planning to introduce biometric
passports that will replace the currently used machine readable ones. The news
has been widely welcomed in the country and in the higher echelons of
government.

The Head of the Immigration Department Kholifa Koroma (pictured) has been
credited as the brain behind the new initiative and has also been praised for
many other initiatives that have been introduced to put the Immigration
department at par with other developing and developed nations in the world.

At Mr. Koroma’s office in the the capital, Freetown, The Patriotic Vanguard
Freetown Bureau Chief Alpha Rashid Jalloh met and had an exclusive interview
with him on the plans to introduce biometric passports, which would go a along
way to forestall fraud and impersonation that are prevalent within the
international community especially in Africa, and incidentally its enhancement
of standard, accurate record keeping and efficient information management in immigration services. Here is Kholifa Koroma:

PV: What is the essence of introducing biometric passports?

KK: The Immigration Department is in its initial stages of introducing
electronic biometric passports probably to be in use by 2015 to replace the
currently used machine readable passports. Though the latter is internationally
recognized, it does not however contain chips that retain bio data of holders of
passports. When we introduce these new types of passports, then Sierra Leone
will become International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) compliant like
other countries that are recognized world wide as users of biometric passports.

PV: Will it be effective against fraudulent users?

KK: Yes. Biometric passports will be effective, secure and will prevent
fraudsters from acquiring it illegitimately because an applicant for a
biometric electronic passport has to go through a cumbersome process that is
IT oriented and the system will also have stored up data of finger prints of
individuals. Consequently, it will not be easy for such passports to be
counterfeited.

PV: How ill Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora acquire such biometric electronic
passports when they shall have been introduced?

KK: The new policy of the Immigration Department that will be in vogue with
contemporary trends will introduce a system of online application which is under
serious consideration by the current management. This will be a lot easier for
Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to have easy access to applications forms,
details of which would soon materialize on the Sierra Leone Immigration website.

PV: Does the Immigration Department have a deadline for the use of the old type
of passports?

KK: The life span of the current machine readable passports that is in the hands
of passport holders is specified in the passport itself. The life span of such
passport is terminated on its replacement at the Immigration Department by the
issuance of the biometric electronic passports to such holders. That should be
the case for every holder; for example, there may currently be ten thousand
holders of the old type of passports and on their renewal the use of such
passports is terminated. Consequently, the end of the use of the machine
readable passport is dependent on its being replaced by the biometric electronic
passport on renewal at the Department.

PV: There have been reports that since you took up office you have come out with
lots of initiatives in the Immigration Department. What are some of those
initiatives?

KK: Some of these initiatives are, but not limited, to:

- First, computerizing the Immigration Service System.

- Second, changing the organogram of the Immigration Department, thus making it a more modern organization with different directors carrying out different responsibilities.

- Third, improving the capabilities of the Immigration personnel with the help of
the European Union and the International Organsiation for Migration and specific
European countries.

- Fourth, developing Memoranda of Understanding with European
countries over the issues of verification of Sierra Leonean nationals that claim
residential status abroad under the guise of asylum seekers and such
verification exercises have proved worthwhile through a separation of
non-nationals from bonafide nationals of Sierra Leone who claim such status.

- Fifth, introducing new mechanisms that have led into the generation of revenue from
the Government of Sierra Leone.

- Sixth, the Immigration Service has been seen to be proactive in cooperating and
collaborating with other sectors and institutions within the country.

- Seventh, the robust measures that have been put in place that have witnessed a drastic
reduction of illegitimate issuance of Sierra Leonean passports.

PV: What are some of the frequently reported problems of Sierra Leoneans in the
Diaspora and how can these problems be curtailed?

KK: Some of the frequently reported problems of Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora
notably include engaging themselves in both misdemeanor and felonious offences
which have led to our immigration experts to be invited abroad to look into
some of these nationals’ claim to Sierra Leonean citizenship.

PV: What is your message to Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora?

KK: My message to Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora is for them to be their
brothers keepers and of themselves, that is to say, they must be vigilant and
help the Immigration Service in Sierra Leone to make sure that illegal
possession of Sierra Leone passports or any suspicious national or circumstance
is reported to our foreign missions abroad for further investigations.

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