The Minister for the Interior, Mr. Ambrose Dery, has urged the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) to consider setting up a Department of Health within its operations as part of an ongoing restructuring of the service.
That, he said, would position GIS strategically to achieve maximum results, particularly at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister gave the advice last Friday when he addressed the opening of a three-day conference of GIS Regional Commanders at the Eastern regional capital, Koforidua.
The event was dubbed: “Responding to the Evolving National Security Threats in the Era of COVID-19”, and was also attended by commanders of sister security services and the management of the GIS.
Among other things, it aimed at exchanging information, sharing ideas, experiences and promoting best strategies in migration management and security in the country.
It was also to find ways of dealing with undesirable foreign elements staying illegally in the country, and to prevent irregular migration along Ghana’s borders.
According to Mr. Dery, it was increasingly clear in the context of the COVID-19 experiences that health officers within the Border Management Department would save Ghana a great deal.
The minister asked officers of the GIS to prevent the importation of infectious diseases through humans, plants and animals into the country, urging that special training and structures to detect such diseases at the borders must be put in place.
The government, Mr. Dery indicated, was therefore, committed to providing the needed support to ensure immigration officers worked more effectively and efficiently in that respect.
He added that the needed equipment and logistics to enable the officers to secure the borders and provide security in collaboration with other sister security services would be provided.
He urged the immigration officers to continue to play their part in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and other immigration issues in Ghana.
The Comptroller-General of Immigration (CGI), Mr. Kwame Asuah Takyi, said there was the need for the GIS and its sister security agencies to work as a team, stressing that the strength of border protection could be measured in ways such as resilience, information sharing and collaboration to enhance capacity building in border management, especially within the context of COVID-19.
He said it was in that direction that strategies had to be adopted to detect, deter and prevent foreign criminal elements and illegal movements at the various borders of the country.
To achieve that, he stressed that there was the need for the GIS to be adequately resourced to enable its officers to work effectively.
Mr. Takyi, who expressed appreciation for the work of immigration officers, also expressed worry about some of the officers leaving their duty posts without permission, and said such attitude did not augur well for effective management, particularly at the regional level.
He explained that it was his objective to see to the amendment of the Immigration Service Act 908 and its Legislative Instrument to meet the pension needs of officers when they retired, adding that the current situation where certain categories of officers retired “just like that” left much to be desired.
The Eastern Regional Minister, Mr. Seth Kwame Acheampong, whose speech was read on his behalf by the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for New Juaben South, Mr. Isaac Appaw-Gyasi, appealed to the GIS to expedite action on the processing of illegal immigrants for deportation since their continuous stay in the country remained a burden on the country’s resources.
He also asked management of the GIS to prioritise standard training for its officers at every level to enhance their knowledge in order for them to be able to deal with situations that might confront them.