• September 15, 2023


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A few days ago, the deputy Chinese Ambassador, His Excellency Li Xiaoyong, promised the newly appointed Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) of Sierra Leone, Alusine Kanneh, to provide technological equipment aimed at digitalising the department.

After Hon Alusine Kanneh had initially made a courtesy call on the Chinese where he made the request for help in digitalising the department’s records, the deputy Chinese Ambassador Li Xiaoyong reciprocated his visit with the good news that the Chinese government will assist the Immigration Department with the equipment to help address this existential challenge to the entire citizenry of the nation.ga

By honouring the request made by the CIO, the deputy Chinese Ambassador has pledged to help Sierra Leone meet a very critical need that has to do with so many issues, key being sovereignty, citizenship and tailoring programmes to meet the growing needs of a growing population.

Having a solid data on citizens and foreigners will help the immigration department in its collaboration with other government ministries, departments and agencies with similar mandates such as Statistics Sierra Leone during their census drives and the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone during elections, among other MDAs.

The digitalisation of the Immigration Department will also go a long way to address the issue of undocumented aliens benefitting from programmes and opportunities that should have been set aside exclusively for citizens.

It must be recalled that Sierra Leonean passport reportedly landed in the hands of people purporting to be Sierra Leoneans to seek asylum and other opportunities overseas.

China proritises citizenship issues and provides services to a population of over 1.4 billion people that are documented. The Chinese can account for every foreigner in their country due to sound immigration and other document controlling agencies in the People’s Republic. But for a small population of over 8 million, Sierra Leone has been struggling with keeping track of the many foreigners that call Sierra Leone home.

China has been a friend of Sierra Leone for 52 years since the two nations establish diplomatic relationship in 1971. Since then China has invested billions of dollars in Sierra Leone apart from providing scholarship opportunities for undergraduate degree holders to further their studies in China. The People’s Republic of China is also heavily invested in the mining, health, infrastructure, trade and commerce, and other sectors of the country, with many of our business people importing many goods from China to trade here at home.

The country also stands to benefit from China’s belt and road initiative. According to Wikipedia, China’s Belt and Road projects in Africa is ‘focus generally on transport and power but include variation within, from international rail and expressways, seaports, hydropower to carbon-based power, water supply and sanitation, and many other programmes’.

It must be recalled that recently Sierra Leoneans complained of an influx of undocumented foreigners who have overburdened the job market. Many of them are accused of operating in the country using fake documents claiming they are of Sierra Leonean heritage. While countries in the sub region are known for having aggressive immigration department workers that conduct regular identity card spot checks for which those whose papers or permits had expired are routinely deported, Sierra Leone is known as a free country where one can live illegally without having to fear ever being deported.

After an assessment of needs in the Immigration Department after his appointment, Chief Immigration Officer, Hon Alusine Kanneh and his team realised that the majority of the department’s logistical needs have to do with records not being properly digitalised, with the equipment for such sorely lacking.

In the midst of other nations imposing sanctions and bans and withholding funding from our government due to the announcement of the disputed presidential elections, China continues with their policy of non-interference in the political affairs of their friends and host nations, unless they are asked. By helping the Immigration Department to digitalise, China has helped the people and government of Sierra Leone where it matters most.

Credit: Joseph A. KAMANDA, Managing Editor, FORUM NEWS SL

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