17 April 2017

Liberia: An Economic Case for Visa Waivers for Liberians Naturalized in Diaspora

"If you cannot get in through the front or back doors, try a window or a chimney," the saying goes, suggesting that persistence in solutions-oriented engagement could yield to positive results. Without jumping the gun, however, one wonders whether the Government of Liberia in the past decade of power ever considered an idea recently proffered recently by a United States-based rights group, that appears to make good business sense.

Universal Human Rights International (UHRI), the group is called, has appealed to the Liberian government to grant visa waivers to its citizens who have acquired citizenship in other countries. The group said though many Liberians sought greener pastures and safety during the civil war and naturalized abroad, their economic contributions to Liberia and Liberians at home have and continue to greatly support the Liberian economy.

Therefore, Rev. Torli Krua, founder and executive director of UHRI, believes that if granted, a visa waiver will encourage Diaspora Liberians to contribute to the private sector and provide jobs for many people in the country.

"This does not necessarily mean they should be allowed to hold dual citizenship," Rev. Krua added.

He argued that while the government of Liberia grants visa waivers to allow citizens of other West African countries to enter Liberia, "it requests payments from those whose navel strings are buried in Liberia."

"During the war, I tried to start businesses in ECOWAS countries and it was impossible. Now, ECOWAS citizens come to Liberia without a visa to do business, bringing their relatives to work and taking their profits back home.

"It was the current ruling elite that sponsored or fought the war that drove Liberians into exile.

"The Diaspora Liberians still support their families in Liberia, while government officials and foreign business men are sending money out of Liberia.

"If the president truly desires lawmakers to pass a dual citizenship bill, why isn't she taking the first step toward reconciliation, family integration and economic revitalization by issuing an Executive Order which only the president has the authority to sign?" he said.

Accordingly, Rev. Krua has called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to issue an Executive Order granting visa waivers to all Liberians forced into exile because of the military coup and brutal civil wars in the interest of national reconciliation, family reunion and economic recovery.

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