General News of Saturday, 18 February 2017
Free visa policies to allow free movement within the African continent will not lead to increased crime rates in countries receiving immigrants, IMANI Vice President Kofi Bentil has said.
Critics have kicked against the introduction of visa-free movement on the continent for Africans arguing that it will lead to a rise in criminality by foreigners but Mr Bentil thinks otherwise.
“Movement, migration and trade [are] never a threat to people. We have been able to detect in IMANI that if you grant visa-free trade, there will not be an increase in crime,” he told Este Sikanku on Class FM’s World Affairs programme on Friday, February 17.
“Today, as we speak, the criminals are moving freely and going wherever they want to go because our borders are porous and the border guards, they just need to be paid. So, when you have a criminal intent or [are] carrying contraband goods or want to do something you don’t want people to find out, all you need is enough money to pay and you will have a smooth ride.”
He said the only people who are being harassed are genuine people who want to travel and traders who “are not prepared to pay bribe because they are not going to do anything wrong”.
“Even today, under Donald Trump, they will tell you immigration makes them stronger and not weaker. People will tell you that the reason why the US is strong is because of the H1 DV visa, by which they are able to attract the best into their country. They will tell you that crime does not increase through immigration. Indeed, very few immigrants commit crime as compared to people who are locals. Terrorism in the US today is done by people who are in the US as citizens than by immigrants,” he clarified.
For him, Africa will be better with visa-free movement adding: “We need more Nigerians in Ghana. We need to mix up, trade between ourselves and do more business. It can only do us good and not evil.”
Responding to a question on the reasons for xenophobia in some African countries, he intimated: “Xenophobia is as a result of a lack of sophistication, the crude word is ‘illiteracy’.”
He indicated that using immigrants as scapegoats for a country’s economic problems is not a solution, adding: “If, for example, South Africans think it is Nigerians who are causing their economic woes. If every Nigerian leaves, South Africa’s problems will compound and not be lower.
“Immigrants actually contribute [to countries] because when they come in they create jobs and actually employ people. So, for example, when South Africa looks at the bigger picture they will realise that the problems have been caused by South Africans and not Nigerians or Ghanaians [living there].”