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Criticism Over Revival Of Liberia's Exit Visa Requirement - 2003-02-27

The government of Liberia has come under widespread public criticism following its decision to reintroduce the exit visa requirement. It means those wishing to leave the country must now be granted permission by the Bureau of immigration.

The government says its decision to reintroduce the exit visa requirement is intended to ensure that rebels and their collaborators do not enter and leave the country clandestinely.

But critics say the new measure is meant to clampdown on the government's political opponents.

A local newspaper Wednesday reported that a leading opposition politician, Charles Brumskine, and some of his supporters were stopped from leaving the country under the exit visa requirement.

Justice Minister Koboi Johnson tells VOA that Mr. Brumskine presented to local Immigration officials a Liberian Passport that still refers to him as Legislator.

Mr. Brumskine is the former President Protempore of the Liberian Senate. He was forced to resign his post by the ruling National Patriotic Party of which he was member. He later left the ruling party following his resignation from the Liberian Senate.

A Justice Ministry statement says – and I quote, the government wishes to admonish all concerned to observe the exit visa requirement and refrain from all acts contrary thereto.

When I visited the offices of the Immigration Bureau I saw dozens of would be travelers pouring in at the Bureau to get an exit visa. They included Liberians and foreign nationals.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Justice & Peace Commission has criticized the reintroduction of the exit visa requirement. It says the measure violates the constitution of Liberia. The Commission cites Article 13 (b) of the Constitution, which guarantees that every citizen has the right to leave and enter the country at anytime without preconditions.

The Immigration Bureau charges 200 Liberian dollars -- or about three and a half U-S dollars -- for the exit visa application form.