15 November 2012

Liberia: Lofans Demand Findings

The people of Lofa County are demanding the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization or BIN to make "extortion" findings on its border guards publishable. But the Bureau has said that it was looking into the complaint (s) brought against some of its personnel assigned at the checkpoint without elaborating further.

However, spokesman Amara Kamara told the media in Monrovia Wednesday that Immigration officers assigned at Liberia-Guinean border in Lofa County were extorting money from returnees. Kamara, a resident of Voinjama, 15 kilometers to the frontier, claimed that US$400.00 was reportedly extorted from a female returnee.

"UNICEF transported this struggling woman who has been out of this country since conflict, back particularly to Voinjama; it was at the border that search was conducted on her person," he noted. Kamara and others recounted a number of incidents at that particular border involving the Immigration officers who are now in charge.

"These were some of the doings which resulted to the conflict that washed away almost 400,000 lives and destroyed countless properties," another Lofan said. They said the BIN authorities, who claimed to be aware of the development, promised thorough investigation into the matter.

"The BIN said they were looking into those complaints brought against their assignees; but what we want done is that the findings must be made public and not kept under the rug," said Kamara.

The Immigration is not the only state security institution whose personnel have been accused of such malpractices (extortion). All of the seven (7) state security apparatus, including the police, Drug Enforcement Agency, National Security Agency and Ministry of National Security are linked to extortion..

The issue of extortion at checkpoints and border posts involving Immigration officers and those entering the country, is a dedicate matter the world-over, including West Africa with Liberia being no exception.

This year, United Nations Development Program-Liberia, through the Justice and Security Trust Fund is providing support to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.

The support includes the provision of uniform accessories for officers of the BIN, as well as berets, whistles, badges, insignia, etc. Extortion is another form of corruption most importantly, when the money is not placed into government revenues.

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