Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 August 2019:
It is thought that there are as many as one hundred thousand or more Sierra Leoneans or people with Sierra Leonean passports, living in the United States. Many are believed to be illegal immigrants or serving jail term.
After decades of US humanitarian policy of giving second chance to those arriving at its shores for a better life, President Trump has decided enough is enough.
Immigrants from several African countries and their families living in the US are now scared, looking over their shoulders, worried and thinking whether and how soon they will be snatched by the immigration police for deportation to their country of birth. Critics are referring to this Trump immigration policy as inhumane and racist.
Deportees are chained like slaves. They are not allowed to take a single item of personal property with them, other than the clothes on their backs. Many have spent most of their lives in the US which they call home, and have very little connection to Sierra Leone.
Life in Sierra Leone is going to be very tough if not impossible for some of the deportees. This will put immense strain on the country’s healthcare, social and welfare services.
It is not clear what specific formal arrangements have been made with governments in countries like Sierra Leone to receive and properly rehabilitate or resettle those that are being deported back to their homeland.
Furthermore, it is not clear how much funding the government of Sierra Leone has received or is receiving from the US government to help the US manage its immigration policy.
Sierra Leone does not have enough space at its prisons to accommodate its own prisoners. let alone take responsibility for those deportees that are being released from US prisons to serve jail term in Sierra Leone. Quite simply, Sierra Leone does not have the resources nor the capacity to cope with this US deportation policy.
Yesterday there was news of the arrival in Sierra Leone of 16 deportees from the US. This is Alhaji M.B Jalloh’s report:
Sixteen Sierra Leonean passport holders have been deported back to Sierra Leone by the U.S. authorities, for alleged criminal and other immigration-related offences, according to a Sierra Leone Police spokesman.
The deportees comprising 15 men and one woman, arrived at the Lungi International Airport on Wednesday, 14th August, 2019.
They are currently being held at the Headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Freetown, Superintendent of Police, Brima Kamara told me on the phone earlier today, Thursday, August 15.
Some of the deported Sierra Leonean passport holders, the Police spokesman said, have been profiled by the relevant authorities while others were still undergoing screening to ascertain whether they originated from Sierra Leone or not.
“Those that have successfully undergone the screening will be allowed to depart to their various destinations while the few suspected to have obtained Sierra Leone passports by dubious means will remain in police custody until investigations are completed,” Superintendent Kamara said.
He also told me that the Sierra Leone government is working closely with the American Embassy in Freetown to receive more deportees within the next two weeks.
Speaking from the Criminal Investigations Department this afternoon, one of the deportees alleged that, he was deported without going through the legal process in the US – an allegation the US Embassy in Freetown has vehemently denied.
“All the deportees were allowed to go through a legal process before issuing the Emergency Travel Certificates to leave the United States, ” A US Embassy official in Freetown told me on the phone late this afternoon.
Another deportee confessed that some of them were living illegally in the US but was also quick to say that: “Majority of Sierra Leoneans living and working in the US are peaceful and law abiding. “
He added that: “I have no criminal record, I was in the US working to support my family back home so that they can have a better life for themselves.”