From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Immigration to sensitize on Fake Passports
By Momoja Lappia
May 21, 2010, 17:20

In reaction to persistent media accusations that the Immigration Department of Sierra Leone issues our national passports to foreigners, the Awareness Times was on 19th May, 2010 informed that the institution is presently putting modalities in place to aptly educate the public on the processes involved in acquiring Sierra Leonean passports; and how the public can assist in weeding out counterfeit passports from the system.

In an exclusive interview with the Controller of Operations, Mr. Ansumana A .Marrah at their Rawdon Street headquarters in Freetown, he attributed the headache they are having with the production of fake passports to the improvements in computer technology which criminals are making use of. "With improved applications of software programs, criminal institutions smartly tamper with passports and other constitutional documents as well," Mr. Ansumana expressed. This he added is similar to what the Central Bank is presently facing in relation to the counterfeiting of the newly introduced family of resized bank notes. He however said that fake passports can be easily tracked because their information are not at the data base of the Immigration Departmentís Records Section.

He said criminals like to carry Sierra Leone passports because of our clean international records at immigrations points. "Most foreign criminals exploit this advantage purporting to be naturalized citizens of Sierra Leone, he informed, adding that this causes embarrassment for the country whenever they fall in police nets.

Against this backdrop Mr. Marrah called on Sierra Leoneans especially the press to cooperate with them in the fight to expose criminals involved in forging our passports. He acknowledged the role of journalists in assisting them in their operations as whistle blowers that often help Immigration track down criminal activities. He disclosed that even though there is improved time line to acquire passports these days, they nonetheless go through strict scrutiny to avoid them falling into wrong hands.

Mr. Marah said another front to fight was the dispatch of a team of surveillance officers country wide to arrest foreigners with Sierra Leonean passports who have failed to tender them as stipulated by Immigration Department months ago. "People of foreign background who are qualified to be naturalized need to come the correct way to obtain passports", he furthered. He said such are in cases where one of their parents is a citizen.

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