Somalia’s immigration: From chaos to high-tech solutions

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Mogadishu's Aden Abdulle International Airport. Photo/Judy Maina/Alleastafrica

In recent years, Somalia has re-established a working relationship with several countries, including some countries that previously rejected to recognize the Somali passport.

By Judy Maina, judy.maina@alleastafrica.com

NAIROBI – For decades, Somalia has featured chaotic and dilapidated airports, untrained airports’ staffers, inconvenient layovers and flight delays, making it a not-so-glamorous destination for travelers who had to endure headaches and constant inconvenience, forget the lousy but typical crowded and awful experience at the gate.

Immigration rules barely existed, making the largest airport, Aden Abdulle one of the worst in the world for people to travel through.

But, not anymore. Today, the long-chaotic horn of Africa nation proudly features  one of the most stunning, spacious and fashionable airports in Africa, having rebuilt it by the Turkish government last year with, new cranes easing the back-breaking work of porters and a surge in state revenue as traffic rises.

However, despite challenges and complexities involved in Improving country’s immigration system, new rules by the immigration directorate  and new strict immigration rules, things have improved, thanks to newly trained staff and efficient leadership striving to comply international immigration rules.

With 700 officers worldwide, Somalia’s immigration directorate’s new strategy has implemented the protocol on free movement of people across Somalia,  and progressively eased visa restrictions as a huge step forward towards full regional integration through free movement of persons.

Demands for new passport issuances have also increased, with hundreds of thousands of passports are issued to citizens each year.

Due to the absence of immigration rules, foreigners required no visas to enter Somalia in previous years, something the country’s previous government have long overlooked.

However, strict immigration are now in place, which unlike before requires foreigners who have long enjoyed visa-free entries into Somalia to apply visas prior travelling to Somalia.

Several foreigners, including Kenyans have since been deported for illegally staying in the country.

“A process to review the country’s immigration laws has been started in order to enforce our immigration laws.” said Col. Mohamed Adam Koofi, Somali immigration chief who the brainchild behind the new immigration revolution for Somalia during a recent television talk show.

SECURITY AND IMMIGRATION

Security threats from porous Somali borders have long been major concerns for both Somalia and its neighboring countries, something that Somalia’s new government has taken seriously to monitor movement of people entering  its country.

Last year, Somalia’s immigration department has since implemented immigration sites across borders of  Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya as parts of new security arrangements with neighboring countries to perform border controls and  execute the customs functions, thanks to efforts to enhance the capacity of the agency’s staffers.

“More than 100 training aimed to build the capacity of the immigration officers have been  held inside and outside”  Mr. Kofi said.

Mohamed Aden Kofi, the director of Somalia’sImmigration and Naturalization Directorate

Appointed as the director of the Immigration and Naturalization Directorate last year, Mr. Kofi, a former senior security official had one thing in mind: to embrace technology to restructure the department in an effort to create a sustainable development.

According to regional security experts, the latter has contributed in improvement of the general security across border areas and prevented smuggling of drugs, weapons, wanted criminals from entering Somalia.

CHAOS SHAKEOFF

Since warlords overthrew Somalia’s central government in 1991, plunging the impoverished horn of Africa nation into protracted conflict, Somali passport has been rated one of the-lowest in a ranking of the global ‘passport power, however, the introduction of two new national ID card and e-passport have raised the Somali passport’s standard, with more countries are now accepting it to issue visas for Somali nationals holders than before.

In addition, Somalia has also re-established a working relationship with several countries, including some countries that previously rejected to recognize the Somali passport.

Moreover, Somali passport holders can also now travel to more countries  with visa free entry or (visa-on-arrival).

According to security officials in Somalia, The new ID cards that were issued in compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization standards  also helped the government’s efforts in improving the country’s security by enabling law enforcement agencies to verify citizens’ identities, while the e-passport facilitates international travels by Somali citizens across borders.

“We have received very positive responses from our international partners that were impressed by the quality and security features of the Somali passports.” Kofi said.

The development currently puts Somalia at a higher position globally, according to a recent assessment by the African Immigration chiefs during a meeting  in the Zambian capital, Lusaka in July, with regard to its ability to properly oversee its air operators, airports , as a result of the new immigration overhaul.

(Additional reporting by Alleastafrica reporter in Mogadishu,editing by John Thiongo in Nairobi, Kenya) 

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