Monday June 2 2014

Tighten immigration control measures

By Editorial

The plan by the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control to boost its 337 staff by recruiting more 480 staff is a good development. This supplementary manpower, director Godfrey Sasaga believes, will save the government from losing Shs4.5 billion in visa fees in the new financial year.

Mr Sasaga says the total of 817 personnel should also help secure Uganda’s entry and exit points, help patrol the long and porous borderline, intensify surveillance, inspections, and control illegal immigrants. This increased numbers should also enhance crackdown on illegal immigrants and enforce compliance. Furthermore, it should strengthen immigration officers’ capacity to check crime and terrorism.

But this improvement in numbers, going by Internal Affairs Minister Gen Aronda Nyakairima’s own admission, is small in comparative terms, for Uganda’s 36 million people and influx of immigrants, especially refugees. Even Malaysia, with a population of 27 million people, employs 11,000 immigration officers; and Ghana, with 24 million people, hires 6,000 officers. Hence Uganda’s new 817 total immigration personnel can scarcely man the 45 gazetted immigration points besides the more than 300 unmanned routes that illegal immigrants use to enter the country.

These unmanned tracks present serious risks to Uganda’s security given that we currently host more than 300 refugees from Rwanda, DR Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. Kampala city alone accommodates more than 80,000 of these refugees.

This calls for the need for the Directorate to man better, register and document all immigrants at our entry and reception points and secure the country from wrong elements that may take advantage of the influx of refugees to infiltrate Uganda.

On the whole, what the Directorate also requires besides increasing the numbers is a comprehensive audit to check the Shs4.5 billion loss in visa fees. This would demand that the Directorate looks inwards and evaluates several aspects of its corporate governance, especially regarding accountability.

Here, it is commendable that the Directorate has already undertaken a self-cleansing probe over alleged poor service delivery and lack of a strategic plan, among others.

This is even more critical for the Directorate given other wider allegations of incompetence, corruption, mismanagement and abuse of office. As a start, the Directorate should review the recommendations of the 2012 probe by the Uganda Police Force’s Director of Crime Intelligence and Investigation Directorate.

Increasing personnel numbers is commendable, but going forward, an audit and strengthening corporate governance, should redeem the Directorate from its wider immigration problems.