By Mamadou Dem
Buba Sagnia, erstwhile Director of The Gambia Immigration Department, on Monday, 30 June 2014, told the Banjul Magistrates’ Court presided over by principal Magistrate Hillary Abeke that he has the right to issue entry clearance as enshrined under Article 9.10 of the Immigration Manual.
Mr. Sagnia made this assertion whilst continuing with his defence before a crowded court room. “I issued an entry clearance to Lebanese and Syrian Nationals on the 24th of October, 2013,” he said.
His lawyer Edward Singhatey asked him to explain to the court the circumstances surrounding the issuing of the entry clearance and the witness said that being the Director General of the Immigration Department, the Immigration Manual (Exhibit B) Article 9.10 gives him the right as the Director to issue an entry clearance upon the applicant fulfilling all the necessary requirements.
In respect to the entry clearance he issued to both Lebanese and Syrian Nationals, he said: “The applicant is from a respectable company, Bimex. The applicant himself is a responsible person in the company as logistics manager.”
Mr. Sagnia further testified that the applicant clearly indicated that while they were in the country as visitors, they would take all Immigration responsibilities, adding that this is how the Immigration normally operates before clearance is granted.
Looking at exhibit B appendix 9A, the witness told the court that Lebanon and Syria are not part of the list of countries mentioned under appendix 9A. He added that the differences between an entry clearance and a visa is that “Entry Clearance is a document issued to an indicating visitor who cannot get visa at his/ her country of origin or who is not within the jurisdiction of visa issuing officer, he /she can show that document to the carrier or airline to enable him/ her to travel to the destination country.
The first defence witness (DW1) testified that at the point of entry or arrival, a normal or standard visa would be issued to the person which, he said, does not guarantee the person to be allowed entry into the country because the individual will make himself available to an Immigration officer to undergo embarkation and disembarkation procedures as required by law.
“Any person who intends to enter or leave the Gambia must present him/herself before an Immigration officer and answer questions imposed by the Immigration officer as required by law (Section 17-18 of the Immigration Act), failure of which, the passenger or person can be declared as ‘INAD’ Inadmissible passenger and should be taken back,” said Sagnia.
“A Visa is an impress or endorsement on passport indicating the holder is allowed to enter, leave, stay for a specific period of time in the country, The Gambia,” added the witness.
When asked about appendix 9a and 9c respectively, the witness told the court that he found both appendixes prepared the way they are, adding that he does not know whose responsibility it is to amend or update the list contained in the said appendixes.
When asked by counsel Sighatey whether he is aware of any other list of countries that send for screening before being granted a visa or entry clearance, he responded “Not to my Knowledge.”
The former Immigration DG told the court that as Director of Immigration he has never received correspondence containing list of countries whose citizens have been mandated to use screening before issuance of visa or entry clearance. “As an Immigration officer with 35 years of experience this year, 2014, in this court is my first time of hearing ‘Red Zone Countries and is not in any of our Immigration books. All I know is iron curtain nationals,” he said.
The witness finally testified that Article 11.1 clearly indicated that iron curtain nationals and even with that it is stated that any doubt should be referred to the Director General of Immigration and not any other Director.
At that juncture, the matter was adjourned to Wednesday 9th July for cross examination by the State.