In an environment of ever increasing security risks faced by the nations of Africa and beyond, the government of Sierra Leone made the decision to improve and modernize its immigration controls to identify dangerous individuals who might attempt to enter the country with the intention of destabilizing the government and disrupting social order. The case of Mali, where the national government lost control of significant national territory to various international terrorist organizations, is a clear example of the perils that threaten the societies of Sierra Leone, Kenya, and all other African countries.
International terrorism also brings dire economic consequences for a country, negatively impacting the nationís capital stock, both physical and human, deterring foreign direct investment, depressing stock market valuations, and affecting trade and tourism.
Attacks to the tourist destination of Bali, Indonesia, in 2002 and again in 2005 caused an immediate drop of 32% to the inbound flow of international passengers to the country. In Kenya, terrorist attacks at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in 2013 caused losses of USD200 million in tourism, and affected the countyís GDP growth by half a percent, or the equivalent of USD400 million.
Conscious of the need to protect the Sierra Leonean society from such perils, the government issued a tender in 2012 to hire a company which would provide, install, and maintain the most advanced immigration processing systems, with biometric identification capabilities and modern analytical tools capable of identifying travelers who might pose a security risk.
The United States based firm, Securiport, was selected to provide the immigration and security systems, to maintain them throughout the duration of a multi-year contract, to train immigration officers, and to technically assist during that period the government personnel who operate the systems. Furthermore, Securiport is required to make all the investments needed to provide the systems, maintain them, and provide training and technical assistance to the government personnel on an ongoing basis.
The security tools imbedded in Securiportís immigration processing systems rely on advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to identify dangerous individuals and also to connect to Interpol databases and national watch lists to identify wanted persons, providing a high level of security to the nation, to international flights and their passengers, and also to the countries of destination.
Following a common practice around the world, the cost of such security screening systems is covered by a security fee charged to all passengers of international flights operating in the country. The variables that determine the amount of the fee are the amount of the investment, the duration of the contract, and especially the number of passengers subject to the fee, which in the case of Sierra Leone is relatively small.
The fee is added to the price of the ticket charged by the international airlines to their passengers and most importantly directly benefits all passengers, the airlines, the airports, and all parties involved through the strengthening of security screening. With the latter point in mind, we must ask ourselves, what is the cost of safety?
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
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