Malawiâ€™s Immigration Department must walk its talk about sealing the loopholes that have allowed foreigners to acquire the Malawian passport.
This is the message President Joyce Banda delivered to the institution in Mzuzu on Friday when she said she is keeping passports that the department issued to foreigners.
The issue has triggered a blame game between immigration officials and district commissioners on who shoulders the blame.
“I have some passports which we are investigating. The owners cannot even speak a word of Chichewa, but they got passports from Mzuzu (Immigration office),” said Banda during commemorations for the people who died during the July 20, 2011 demonstrations.
Regional immigration officer for the North, David Kwanjama, who was present when the President was making the accusations, said the institution has stepped up security measures to stem the vice.
“For example, I am working hard to make sure that every (passport) applicant has to be interviewed by an immigration officer,” said Kwanjama, adding that laxity compromised the effectiveness of the measure.
Kwanjama also blamed people who take pictures for passport applicants at immigration offices for doing â€˜dirty businessâ€™.
He said a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was dragged to court for possessing a Malawian passport.
“He is a refugee from Dzaleka Camp, but from DRC. He got the passport using the name of Francis Banda. However, the court on Friday fined him K10 000 and that he should be sent back to Dzaleka,” said Kwanjama.
He accused district commissioners of being part of the passport fraud in the country.
“Forms are sent to District Commissionerâ€™s office to check the village and other particulars about the person. And the office stamps the form to confirm that the applicant comes from a particular village when he or she is a foreigner,” said Kwanjama.
But DC for Mzimba, Reverend Moses Chimphepo, pushed the blame back to Immigration, saying DCs only confirm particulars on the applicantâ€™s home.
“We only confirm the village written on the passport form. The Immigration is the one that confirms other particulars. They take a picture of the person and it is funny for a person from Pakistan to come from a village in Mzimba. The face of the person and particulars can easily create suspicion,” said Chimphepo.
recently uncovered a racket where police officers in Karonga are helping foreigners to get into the country for a fee of about $400.
Karonga is one of the key entry points for illegal immigrants. Although the authorities have made pronouncements about dealing with the problem, little is working on the ground.
No wonder the country has for some time been wearing the uncomplimentary tag as a conduit for illegal immigrants and human traffickers in the region.