An umbrella organization of Sierra Leoneans in The Netherlands has appealed to the Sierra Leone government to fulfill years of promise to establish a diplomatic mission in the European country.The Sierra Leone Central Union (SLCU) said the absence of a mission as basic as a consulate means Sierra Leoneans have had to travel long distances to neighboring Belgium to seek immigration services.
SLCU is an amalgamation of about 14 organizations representing Sierra Leonean interests in The Netherlands.
It has an estimated 6000 documented members across the country, according to its executive.
Abdurahman Koroma, President of the organization, said for documented persons like him, it costs time and money to access consular services because they have to travel across borders.
It takes Koroma between two and three hours to get to Belgium.
“And that’s one of the hurdles as I have to abandon my job because it’s like a whole day project,” he said at a press conference in Freetown on Friday.
According to him, the experience is worst for the undocumented members of their population, who risk being arrested and detained if they happen to cross the path of the police outside their communities.
“They may want to get a certain document and there is the risk of meeting a policeman on the way which can lead to going to jail. It bothers them because they do not have money and have no vehicle to drive. They have to join public transport,” he added.
Netherlands is one of the countries with the largest Sierra Leonean populations outside the West African country, and it has been a major source of concern due to the high rate of immigration related problems facing the Sierra Leonean population there.
Many of the Sierra Leoneans living in The Netherlands went there during the eleven-year civil war.
Many of them who have been denied asylum face deportation.
And this has been a sticky point for relations between the two governments.
The Sierra Leone government has always argued that many of the people who are identified as Sierra Leoneans were in fact not Sierra Leoneans, claiming that they had accessed the country’s passports during the war.
SLCU has been championing the course for the establishment of a diplomatic mission for a large part of its 15-year existence.
Mr. Koroma said they had had promises from the previous government.
“We are appealing to this government to fulfill that promise,” he said.
SLCU was established in 2004 with the goal of promoting peace among Sierra Leoneans in the Netherlands and to embark on development projects back home.