General News Sat, 15 Sep 2001

Immigration takes precautionary measures at Airport

The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), has increased its staff strength at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) and other entry points to forestall the infiltration of potential terrorists and other persons of dubious character into the country.

Speaking to newsmen in Accra, Nana Owusu-Nsiah, Director of GIS said the move followed Tuesday's terrorist attack on the United States, in which four hijacked commercial planes rammed into the World Trade Centre (WTC) Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

"Following the recent attack on the USA, we do not want to take chances, as it appears that terrorists are operating from all corners of the world through even commercial planes.

"We are going to ensure that for 24 hours there would be an officer each in all the immigration booths at KIA," he said. "We are also seeking the assistance of the police to guard the arrival room for 24 hours to ensure that only visitors enter that room."

Nana Owusu-Nsiah said the arrival room is open to all kinds of people, making it difficult for immigration officers to do their work effectively.

He said officers at the airport and other entry points have been detailed to thoroughly scrutinize the passports and other documents of visitors before allowing them to pass through adding, "we have asked them to detain any suspicious characters and refer questionable documents to the headquarters for further action."

He, however, said these security measures would not be made to undermine investor and tourist confidence and that officers have be asked to handle visitors with utmost tact and circumspection.

Nana Owusu-Nsiah said the GIS has instituted new measures to ensure speedy processing of passports.

Application for passports would not take more than four days to be processed and forwarded to the passport office for further action. "We expect the passport office to do the same to complement our effort."

This, he said, is to ensure that passports are processed and delivered to applicants within the mandated four weeks.

"At the moment there are several thousand passports at the Greater-Accra Regional Immigration Office yet to be collected.

This is probably because applicants have given up chasing their passports owing to the delay in processing them."

He said names of persons whose passports have been completed would soon be published in the newspapers for the owners to go for them.

Nana Owusu-Nsiah added his voice to the call by the Vice President on diplomatic missions to stop defacing passports of rejected visa applicants.

He said this contributes to the pressure on the GIS and the passport office for new passports by people who have fallen victim to such treatment.

Earlier at a durbar the director asked the staff to be vigilant in the discharge of their duties.

He warned them against condoning with passport contractors, saying any officer caught in any corrupt practice would face the law.

Nana said officers would undergo military training to inculcate in them a new sense of discipline and loyalty.

Source: GNA