The Gambia Immigration Department has dismissed allegations that its officers at Banjul International Airport are helping passengers to escape quarantine as “unfounded and misleading”.

The Department said in a statement: “We refute all such claims and allegations as unfounded and misleading. 

“Our investigations revealed that no such practice is being entertained by our hard-working officers.

 “It is true that The Gambia Immigration Department bears the statutory mandate of monitoring and managing the movement of persons coming into and going out of the Gambia. 

“However, according to article 22 of the International Health Regulations (2005) which sought compliance from all WHO member states (including the Gambia), the responsibility for management of the risk of communicable diseases at airport rests primarily on the national public health authority, even though this cannot be done in isolation; meaning that the latter needs the collaboration of other stakeholders like the migration control authority.

“Cognizant of this reality and the fact that migration is a key determinant of public health as evident in the Gambia scenario where most of the first cases of Covid-19 registered in the country were imported, The Gambia Immigration Department work closely with the ministry health at all points of entry and exit of which Banjul International airport is no exception.”

It added: “The design of operations conducted at the Banjul International Airport during Covid-19 makes it very difficult if not impossible for any Immigration officer to have a chance of aiding passengers to escape quarantine procedures contrary to the rumours making rounds on social media. 

“The GID leadership take such rumours and allegations very serious thus making some extensive investigations into the matter. So far, our investigations revealed that such claims are unfounded and misleading. 

“Before each operation at the airport, a taskforce comprising of Public Health officials, GID, GPF, GCAA, DLEAG and SIS meets and discuss the operational modalities and responsibilities with regards to the arriving aircraft and passengers. 

“During such briefings, all agencies that form part of the operations are availed a copy of the passenger manifest.

“Note that it is an important international requirement, that before any flight arrive at a port of disembarkation, the flight manifest must be availed to the authorities at the airport.”

The department said upon arrival, passengers are received at the foot of the aircraft by bus and escorted to the arrival hall which is jointly guarded by the Police Intervention Unit personnel and Gambia Civil Aviation security, adding passengers then go through Immigration checks and procedures supervised by the GID staff.

It said there are four booths and each of them have two officers operating a work station, and these booths are strictly monitored by supervisors on site in addition to the CCTV camera monitoring system that ensures that every transaction that takes place is recorded.

“Due to the Covid-19, immigration enrolment is reduced to only two things which is documents and Iris enrollment. The fingerprint enrollment is ceased as a health precaution to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

“After enrollment, all passports are handed over to the health personnel in the presence of everyone and they do countercheck to confirm that the number of passports received tallies with the numbers and names on the manifest. 

“Health officials need these passports not just to account for all arriving passengers but also to help in the check-in formalities at quarantine centers as a guarantee for passengers to fully undergo quarantine procedures. This is where the immigration role ends.

“After the enrolment and handing over of passports to health officials, the passengers are now allowed to go collect their baggages and follow customs procedures. 

“All these is done in a secured environment with only one exit under the guard of the PIU and aviation security. After exhausting all these procedures, passengers are then escorted to the various quarantine centers. 

“It is worth mentioning that there are no immigration officers posted to these places and what might happen there would not be the responsibility of GID.The GID assures the general public that the safety of our citizens and residents of the Gambia is our greatest interest and that we will continue to do our best in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.”

By Adama Makasuba

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