From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

SPECIAL REPORTS
Liberia’s Immigration Chief Commends Sierra Leone’s Immigration Officials
By Bampia Bundu (Recently in Liberia)
Aug 27, 2010, 17:22

The Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalisation and Deputy Attorney-General of the Republic of Liberia has heaped praises on Sierra Leone Immigration officials whilst vowing to ensure he did everything possible to maintain the excellent relationship that should always exist between two countries that were not only neighbours but sister countries with similar Culture and History. Hon. Christian Clarence Massaquoi was speaking during a recent exclusive interview he granted to Awareness Times journalist Bampia James Bundu jnr. at the Immigration Headquarters in Monrovia on August 18th 2010.

Bampia Bundu taking down notes as Hon. Massaquoi speaks.

According to Hon. Massaquoi, the Liberia-Sierra Leone border is very much strategic to his country as it covers an expanse linking Sierra Leonean territory with three major Liberian towns that contain rich natural resources. Speaking on some of the constraints faced by Liberia’s Immigration as a Nation rebuilding after coming out of war, he revealed that his officers are currently manning about 36 border points across Liberia which was "not an easy tax" for his men but he expressed appreciation for the support his country has been receiving from Donor countries to strengthen the Immigration Department. However, he was quite categorical in saying that despite the hurdles faced by his men at various Border points, the collaboration between Sierra Leone Immigration officials and their Liberian counterparts were "very friendly and effective".

"We have been holding monthly meeting between Sierra Leone Immigration officers and Liberia Immigrations officers and the meetings have been fruitful and accommodating on both sides; even though we the heads don’t travel to the borders to attend the meetings, I can tell you that they have been quite successful in ensuring effective collaboration," Hon. Massaquoi said adding that the officers at the various borders checkpoints have been working together to settle minor dispute amongst citizens of the two countries.

Hon. Massaquoi told Awareness Times that he had personally met with the Sierra Leone Immigration Boss a number of times and their discussions were usually centered on how they could collaborate with each other even more effectively especially at the Borders. Massaquoi, himself a trained Lawyer, international security expert, former Inspector-General of Police and former Director of Special Security Services of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, expressed satisfaction over his ongoing relationship with the Sierra Leone Immigration and Law Enforcement Agencies.

The Immigration Boss also elaborated on some challenges his men faced in executing their jobs. He said some people are with the habit of travelling to other countries without following the necessary procedures or obtained the necessary travelling document. He added that such challenges are common between the two countries, and other neighbouring countries in the sub-region but they have been doing all they can to control and minimise such happenings.

"We are faced with several challenges such as smuggling of goods, human trafficking, illegal cross-border mining activities, illegal immigrants entering the country to cause havoc amongst other challenges but we have been arresting perpetrators following which we refer them to their home country’s embassy for further investigations. Similarly, when our own citizens get arrested in Sierra Leone for immigration related offences, your officials do the same and refer them to our embassy people," Massaquoi explained.

As he ended his chat with this reporter, the honourable gentleman used the opportunity to appeal to the citizens of Sierra Leone and Liberia to respect the laws of the two countries. He also appealed to them to adhere to all immigrations procedures before they travel to avoid embarrassment from Immigration Officers either at the Airport, the Sea Shores or the Landed Border points.

Hon. Massaquoi listens keenly as Bampia makes a point to him

Hon. Chris Massaquoi finally ended his interview by taking his time to point out the similarities between Sierra Leoneans and Liberians both in terms of their Culture and History which he said made it imperative for the two countries to be each other’s keepers at all times. He reminded of how the two countries shared the heritage of laying claim to one of the greatest Africans ever, Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden. On a personal note, he pointed out his own paternal ancestral links to Pujehun District in Southern Sierra Leone where his ancestors, the Massaquois were settled with their descendants there up to this day who also carry the name Massaquoi though they are Sierra Leoneans. Hon. Massaquoi, though born in Liberia, says he considers Sierra Leone as an important country to him and assured that, on his own part, himself and his Immigration Department will continue to do all they can to maintain the bilateral relationship that exist between Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"Infact, I hope to strengthen the relationship even more at any chance I am given," he ended.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The exclusive interview with Liberia’s Immigration Boss, Hon. C.C. Massaquoi, one of Liberia’s busiest public servants, was arranged for the visiting journalist Bampia Bundu, at very short notice, by the Publisher of Awareness Times, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden. When Bundu was asked by his Liberian Journalist colleagues  how he managed to obtain an exclusive interview with one of Liberia’s most busy public servants at such short notice, Bampia Bundu responded, "When you work for a reputable international news outlet like the Awareness Times, many doors get opened for you".



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