(LINA) – Nationals of Burkina Faso, who transit through Côte d’Ivoire to enter final destination Liberia, have been declared “illegal migrants” by the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) which now says it has started to “repatriate” them to their home country.
The Burkinabés cross into Liberia and settled in forest areas along the Ivorian-Liberian border, and are said to be carrying out mainly cocoa farming, hunting, and pit sawing despite “not having proper documentations.”
Some are said to be contracted or hired by locals who want to cultivate large farms in return for portions of farmland or other means of compensation.
Concern about the situation has lingered for over five years now. The latest move by the Liberian security to deport the migrants, however, springs from a “security concern.”
The Government does not want to compromise its national interest due to the fact that Jihadists, extremists and other terrorist cells have established in some parts of West and North Africa, creating untold havoc for residents and Governments.
“There have been a series of attacks in Mali, Burkina Fuso, and, even Ivory Coast. The influx of Burkinabés in Liberia has raised [serious] security concerns,” Col. Robert Budy told journalist at news conference in Monrovia.
“Group such as Mujahedeen, Al Shabab, and Al Qaeda are operating in those regions – there is Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameron and Niger and we need no such thing to happen in our country,” said Budy, who is LIS Commissioner.
“Liberia will not allow any terrorist activities or attacks, and the LIS will continue to combat human trafficking, drugs and arms trafficking,” the Colonel assured.
Locals’ accounts in Grand Gedeh suggest that the Burkinabés there would be seen with single barrel shotguns and other light weapons and power saws.
There is an estimated 500 of them in Liberia, and their members are said to be apprehended “on a weekly basis” by Border Patrol Unit officers of the LIS, according to Col. Budy.
Moreover, mainly people in Grand Gedeh County, particularly in B’hai District, have been using traditional and social media platforms to urge the Government to deport the Burkinabés and stem their flow into the forest via the porous border.
The locals claim the migrants are exploiting forest resources and encroaching on farmlands and shrines to make cocoa farms.
The Immigration chief said the headache his agency is facing is that some local residents in Grand Gedeh are in the habit of facilitating the Burkinabés and accommodating them as their workers.
But Budy issued a warming to that effect, saying: “Any citizen of Liberia that harbors illegal migrants or aliens and are involved in criminality and transnational crimes such as arms, human and drugs trafficking, and we will have that citizen arrested and prosecuted!”
While Burkina Faso is a fellow member state of the of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Col. Budy pointed out that Liberia cannot accept illegal migration or one that may threaten national security.