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21.10.2008 General News

Challenges Of The Immigration Service

Challenges Of The Immigration Service

Until the catastrophe of September 11, 2001, many governments the world over paid little or no attention to immigration policies.

Our own Ghana Immigration Service was considered (and some still consider it) as an orphaned organisation crying not only for the right policy direction and focus but also the requisite logistics, both material and human, good salaries and incentives, among others.

However, since the event of September 11, coupled with mobility changes in the world, the ease in movement of people, particularly investors, and transnationalisation of crime, governments the world over, are beginning to pay serious attention to migration policies.


Indeed, the United States of America tightened its entry regimes with many Americans volunteering to keep watch at that country's borders to support the security services to prevent "uninvited" guests from entering the country.

In Ghana, a lot has taken place within the last six years to help improve the operations of the GIS to secure the country's borders.


From an insignificant player in the national development agenda, the service has become a major player because it has been duly recognised that immigration and national security were intrinsically linked.

That has resulted in the changes in the curricular for training of personnel of the service to integrate intelligence and tactical monitoring to enable the personnel to go beyond looking at passports to forecasting, as well as analysing profiles and threats.


Fortunately, the government, together with donor partners, have supported the service with modern gadgets, albeit limited, to facilitate electronic border checks at all major points of entry.


It has also been provided with improved communication equipment resulting in the use of more passenger information.


Currently, the service has the electronic stoplist database to facilitate the early clearing of passengers at entry points as intelligence on wanted persons and suspected criminals are stored in this database.

These changes call for moving from mere identification of documents to training personnel in information technology (IT), the use of cameras, scanners and how to manage the information.


 From next year, the service is expected to mount Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras at the major entry points and selected areas to capture the movement of both humans and animals and any other thing.

Although technology can assist, it must be noted that technology is a hands-on job. Upon seeing people on the CCTV, immigration personnel would be required to move to the spots captured on the camera.


From a staff strength of 680 in 2002, the number has been increased to 2,300 and continues to increase to a level that would help secure the 43 official borders and the unapproved routes.


To meet the challenges, the infrastructure of the immigration training school at Assin Fosu in the Central Region has seen some major expansion and where necessary, the service has fallen on sister security agencies' training facilities.


For instance, immigration personnel under the Border Patrol Unit undergo further training at the Asutuare Military Training Camp.

Without doubt, the number of people coming into Ghana within the last seven years has increased tremendously and this calls for effective management of the immigrants, as well as those leaving the shores of the country.


One should not forget that the rise of Asia as a global giant has greatly impacted on all nations, including Ghana, as the country has witnessed a tremendous influx of people of Asian origin.

Certainly, these developments call for an integrated border patrol system to instil discipline and integrity at the the borders.


In 2006, the government responded appropriately by starting the deployment of more agents at the country's borders.

According to Ms Elizabeth Adjei, Director of the GIS, daily situation reports (SITREPS) management and what the government receives indicate that the country's borders were safer and secure now.


She said by 2009, the cliche of "porous borders" would have been put to rest.

The use of fraudulent documents to travel out or enter Ghana has also reduced significantly, thanks to the use of biometric gadget at the Kotoka International Airport.


The gadget is capable of detecting any fake document. With the support of donors, personnel have been trained to use the machine to detect all genuine travel documents, from passports and visas to resident and work permits.


More than 800 fake travel documents were intercepted in 2004 alone at the airport. The major land borders at Aflao, Elubo and Paga have been secured with the capacity to intercept such fraudulent documents, thus making it difficult for criminals to use Ghana as an assembling point.

Since her appointment in September 2002, Ms Elizabeth Adjei has not disappointed her employers, the government for that matter, as the first female director of the GIS.


In fact, she has made a strong case for Ghanaian women for better recognition. As the first female director of the GIS and female head of a security agency, Ms Adjei has written her name in gold for posterity.


She has exuded the confidence of a general with a high sense of professionalism and discipline. Her demand for excellence has catapulted the GIS to a high level.

In the last six years, there have been an increase in logistics, particularly vehicles and motorbikes, to enhance the operations of the service.


Currently, the service is expecting all-purpose jungle vehicles for its border personnel to make them more effective.

"We expect the graph to keep on rising for the next five years to about 2012", Ms Adjei said.

She said considering the way Ghanaians also left the country to seek greener pastures, the service had created a data management system to help profile such people to advise the government on policies that would benefit such persons.


That, she said, was also being done with the international community, donors and interest groups who host such Ghanaians, to see how best they could help positively improve the lot of the Ghanaian traveller.

In dealing with such situations, one needs to be critical in managing migration, especially the issue of illegal migration.


One needs to look at the segment of the population that are involved in illegal migration and the sort of documents they use.

While the nation looks forward to receiving not just tourists but business executives as well, the service is obliged to also check who actually come in and that could conflict with the nation's desire to attract investment.

To facilitate the implementation of these trends, there is the need for a review of the legal framework of the GIS.


The current GIS Act and immigration laws were put in place to cater for a limited function but things have changed.


 For instance, the immigration law needs to be amended to cater for present threats permiting the use of limited weapons, power of arrest and also have a strategic response to the Asia onslaught. Any review would have implications for investment and unemployment.


Thus, any review should relate positively with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre laws to address the issue of equity requirements of shifting from industry to the service sectory.

In this way, immigration laws would move from the management of movement of persons to facilitating sound policies to attract investment.


It is also important that there is policy change in the status of the service as a law enforcement agency to be in line with investment and trade policies of the government.

As a matter of importance, the country's manpower laws should inform the immigration law. That is required because the country needs to identify its skills gaps to inform the government in its policies.


The GIS should be seen to be moving from law enforcement to contributing to an integrated development policies.


 In fact, all these changes should reflect the critical impartance of immigration to national development.


 The government's development strategy is hinged on foreign investment, hence the need for personnel of the GIS to be responsible, polite, efficient and professional in the discharge of their duty.


However, they need to be wary not to compromise on those aspects of their duties which impact on national security.

No wonder in the last two years, the GIS has responded appropriately by insisting on security, medical and admissibility reports before processing emergency entry visas and resident permits for applicants.

According to Ms Adjei, the service has tried to facilitate business by working around the clock to reduce time spent in acquiring such entry documents.


Besides, she said, the service had developed a fact-sheet and a website to enable clients to access information and application forms to facilitate the turn-around time of doing business.


Ghana serves as a haven for many people in the sub-region and the rest of Africa. Due to security, political and social problems facing many countries on the continent, it is a matter of course that they would troop to Ghana.


Ghanaians have the characteristics of being open, warm and hospitable.


The country is also gaining the status as a fast developing country that has become a magnet to attract other people, including criminals.

The service should not seek to be a fortress but to manage a balance between investment and security well-being of the people.


All our systems must be disposed of to deal with these natural dispositions of Ghanaians.


Fortunately, we do not have nationalistic and xenophobic tendencies to deal with.


But with the anticipated increase in foreign presence in the country, especially the discovery of oil, and the Asian challenge, it is important that the GIS is well positioned to deal with the increasing foreign presence.


It can be seen that Ghana is gradually turning from an immigration country to one of receiving migrants hence the need to rethink the management of foreigners in the future.


Ghanaians must ask whether the emphasis should be on placing restrictions on foreign entries or policing them.

It is believed that the introduction of the National Identification Cards was timely as it would help the GIS with its enforcement policies.

The security of the sea coast is also a challenge which should be confronted head on. In fact, the discovery of oil calls for a comprehensive and coherent policy to protect the country's sea coast.