Barred from Travel on “Anti-Human Trafficking Regulations”?

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With new-born twins in hand, Rep. and Mrs. Yekeh Kolubah narrate their ordeal with immigration officers, at RIA

Rep. and Mrs. Yekeh Kolubah believe they’re simply being persecuted for being critical of President Weah

The Government of Liberia is sticking to its claims that it held back Mrs. Georgetta Kolubah and her 6 children from a holiday trip to Accra, Ghana, not for political reasons but because “she could not prove that the children were hers.” Citing “anti-human trafficking regulations”, the government wants Mrs. Kolubah and her husband, Montserrado County District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah, to provide documentation that the children are theirs.

The situation comes in wake of another “Save the State” protest action, scheduled for July 24, leading up to July 26, Liberia’s Independence Day. Rep. Kolubah, a fierce critic of President Weah, is one of the organizers of the pending protest. Recently, Kolubah and his bodyguards were charged by the government with multiple crimes that included aggravated assault, criminal attempt to commit murder, kidnapping and criminal facilitation.

Mrs. Georgetta Kolubah said she and their six children woke up early on the morning of Saturday, July 13, 2019 and headed for the Roberts International Airport to catch their much anticipated flight to Accra, Ghana, where they were to spend about one week of their end-of-school vacation and return in time for July 26, Liberia’s Independence Day. According to her, as this was not their first family trip out of the country in the last 18 months, everything was expected to go smoothly as usual.

The family had taken other trips before in 2018 — once to Lebanon and another time to Nigeria. In both instances, according to Mrs. Kolubah, there were no issues. They all returned together, safely. Now they had a pair of new-borns — twins, which would be joining them on the trip to Accra.  Suddenly, while her and her kids’ passports were being inspected, she found herself the subject of interrogation, by immigration officials, as to whether all the kids were hers. She answered in the affirmative, but could not convince her interrogators. Therefore her husband had to be called in to attest that the six are indeed their children.

Rep. Kolubah said he arrived at the airport and corroborated his wife’s answers to the immigration officers’ questions. According to him, they also wanted to know if he was aware that Mrs. Kolubah was taking them out of the country. Again, he answered in the affirmative.

At that point, Rep. Kolubah said he was assured by the immigration officers that his family was cleared for travel.

According to Mrs. Kolubah, no sooner had they been cleared for travel, another man (unidentified) came and collected the family’s travel documents from the immigration officers and said Rep. Kolubah need to complete a form. When the lawmaker decided to oblige, the official eventually told him that instructions had been handed down that the Kolubahs should not leave the country.

By this time, the Kolubahs said they had reason to believe that they were being harassed because of Rep. Kolubah’s critical remarks against the President of Liberia, George M. Weah. Their suspicious were confirmed when unnamed official who collected their passports told Rep. Kolubah that the directive to bar them from travel “came from the higher up”.

Rep. Kolubah said he contacted the acting Minister of Justice (unnamed) who admitted being aware of the situation, adding that “President Weah just touched down [at RIA] and he gave instructions that you and your family shouldn’t leave this country.” The acting minister also told Rep. Kolubah that the family could not get their passports back.

Late Saturday evening, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) issued a statement denying any “political considerations” for barring the Kolubah family from travel. Instead, the statement cited “anti-human trafficking regulations” as the reason for barring them from travel.

The Act To Ban Trafficking In Persons Within The Republic Of Liberia, outlines requirements for international transport operators to observe when selling tickets to would-be travelers. Section 10 of the Act, which talks about “misuse of commercial transportation”, notes that: a) International transportation companies must verify that every passenger possesses the necessary travel documents, including passports and visas, to enter the destination country and any transit countries; and b) That requirement in (a) shall be applied to both staff selling or issuing tickets, boarding passes or similar travel documents and to staff collecting or checking tickets prior to or subsequent to boarding.

The act was passed by the National Transitional Legislative Assembly in 2005.

The Act does not specifically list any other travel documents besides passports and visas, by which persons should be allowed to travel, individually or as a group. However a legal professional, who requested not to be named, told the Daily Observer of a certain regulation that requires that if a parent is traveling with child(ren) out of the country, that parent must provide a compulsory affidavit from the remaining spouse acknowledging and agreeing to the child(ren) accompanying the traveling parent. Such laws or regulatory instruments are common around the world, even in Africa, which protect the right of either parent to be with their children.

In Liberia, this requirement is not found in the 2005 anti-human trafficking act.

In spite of Rep. Kolubah’s in-person attestation to the immigration officers at the airport that all of the children accompanying Mrs. Kolubah were theirs — including their newborn twins — the MICAT statement had this to say: “During routine checks, Madam Kolubah could not prove that all the children were hers, or that they were traveling with the consent of both parents in keeping with anti-human trafficking procedures. When she didn’t produce the necessary legal instrument which would have validated her claims, Mrs. Kolubah was duly informed on how such documentation could be obtained, without which she cannot leave the country with the children. This is standard practice which other adults accompanied by even a single child have had to face.”

According to the MICAT statement, Mrs. Kolubah “was… accompanied by seven children, five of whom had diplomatic passports. The other two had laissez-passer.”

According to Article IV Section 3 of the “Revised Regulations To Govern The Administration And Issuance Of Liberian Passports“, dated March 2016, Members of the House of Representatives, their spouses and their children under the age of 18 are entitled to diplomatic passports.

“Meanwhile, the government strongly refutes Representative Kolubah’s claims that he spoke to Justice Minister Musa Dean about Saturday’s incident. The Minister has not spoken with the lawmaker since his return to the country from a trip to Guinea” MICAT says.

Rep. Kolubah, in fact, told Journalists on Saturday that he “spoke with the Acting Minister of Justice.”

The MICAT release also said there were seven children with Mrs. Kolubah. However, the Kolubahs report that there were six children with Mrs. Kolubah.

“The Government, however, reiterates its commitment to upholding the rights of every Liberian, including the right to free movement. The government interposes no objection to any plans by Representative Kolubah’s family to travel out of Liberia, except where interdicted by the courts.”

Amid claims by Rep. and Mrs. Kolubah that they had traveled twice in 2018 as a family and had no issues raised by the Liberian immigration about whether the children belonged to them, the onus is now on them to establish that the children Mrs. Kolubah was traveling with belong to the couple.

Pundits, however, find it baffling that the motive behind the barring of the Kolubahs from traveling was anything but political. “To the extent that the government would take away the luggage and the food that had been packed for the Kolubah’s twins, what has that to do with human trafficking?” one commentator asked.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kolubah says he has alerted the ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Tunde Ajisomo; and will register his concerns about his ordeal in written communications to the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Another demonstration of obvious stupidity! And we are supposed to lend this foolishness more time? What does Yekeh Kolubah’s family have to do with whatever his concocted transgression that they are being denied the right to travel out of the country? If the trending argument that because Rep. Koulbah is one of the organizers of the anticipated July 24th, or thereabout demonstration and so his family should not travel, does that mean the government of Liberia intends to do harm to citizens during that demonstration for which it wants Hon. Kolubah’s family to be present and be victimized too? This Weah government is surely stirring up trouble with flagrant human rights abuses of this nature, and by so doing digging its own grave. This is exactly how tyranny starts, one person or family at a time with the inherent objective, “to teach the rest of society a lesson” in coercive obedience. George Weah will have himself to blame in the end for choosing the same road other tyrants before him chose. And the history is there and still fresh as to how it all ended with those others. Just a hint!

  2. Fellow Liberians! Let’s be honest with ourselves about the situation facing our country and how best we can find a common solution rather taking this divisive decision against individual that’s being critical about the administration. Hon. Yekeh Kolubah presence at the airport to comfrimed the wife tale that, the children are theirs was just enough to the episode. Why this had to end up as political motives again by adding fuel to a burning fire?
    Is this how president Weah wants to control Liberians or they think Liberia belongs to them? This is totally wrong and no one should support this type of behaviour in the crusade of implementing trafficking laws. What are the credentials necessary to prove that, the children belongs to the couples other than birth certificates which I supposed was a prerequisite to obtaining the passports. You think traffickers will used the airport for their operations when there are land boarders to exit Liberia to neighbouring countries?
    Why should individuals be subjected to these type of treatment from the president only because they criticize the administration every time they violate our constitution. Where are our laws that governed us as a nation and people of Liberia? Or now, is just about the president say so it so shall it be done and no further question. I don’t think this is the kind of Liberia we all are anticipating to be part of and considering our country. J. Ark

  3. It is perceived that Mad. Kolubah along with children were being stooped, but the real truth is that the two babies didn’t have the necessary travelling papers in keeping with regulation of the LIS. So, making it to look as though it is because he’s critical is untrue. Let her get the necessary papers and see if the government will stop her.

    • Henrydee Johnson, as a matter of fact, besides this undocumented travelling particulars by Yekeh Kolubah and his family, the immigration or the government would be making a big mistake to let this man Kolubah and his family leave the country when this man has vowed to destabilise the country, and even overthrow the government.

      This is not about his good for nothing rubbish at govt or at the President. This guy must face some serious RESTRAINTS after saying he will travel from county to county to make people children PROTEST while his children go elsewhere to be safe in case of the very violence he intends to inflict on other families and children. STOP YEKEH KOLUBAH AND HIS FAMILY FROM LEAVING THE COUNTRY. RIGJTS CAN BE DEROGATED WHEN NECESSARY.

      • don’t be a fool!!!! see you are becoming a detector like your boss weah. this is not Ebola time that the situation had no respect for who you are. stop supporting this wrong. if what you are praying for something bad to happen, yekeh and his family may be save from it 75% to 100%. I pray nothing bad happen. let the people go on their trip for God seek, I beg all the detectors of Liberia. remember not a single child from Taylor or prince Johnson was killed or harm when they brought war or trouble to Liberia. and if yekeh is desiring to do anything bad, it come to light, stop speaking when he speaks, let him digging his own hold if he is doing the wrong thin, leave his kids out of this political thing or it will turn back on weah to be bad. if you and weah the detector is having bad plans to cover up for all the wrong you are doing, it will be exposed daily. the UN and USA or the world spend too much for peace God will not let their effort down. there is and will be not war in Liberia by God help, I am on my knees daily for Liberia. All we need to do now with the peace is to keep telling the government to do the right thing for the people instead of stealing or using the Liberian people money for enjoyment trips and building their own mansions that they could not build when they were not in power in a very short time or world, Europe and Africa best player.

    • Henry D. Johnson, do you believe that anybody with sense will travel out of the country with children without any paper, including yellow book?

      • All humans have sense, but not the knowledge of the Law. Especially semi-literates like Mr. and Mrs. Kolubah! Will the system allow the Kolubahs to continue holding Diplomatic passports, if they do not want them to travel for political reasons? They would have simply cancel the passports. Yor stop making mountain out of mole hill!

        • This government has established notoriety for a preference for lawlessness and shamelessness. Yes, such a government with dictatorial tendencies can try to get at one of it’s vocal critics by interference with the freedom of movement of family members. Feigned concern for human trafficking is simply an unconvincing pretext employed in this instance of retaliation against the controversial foe of this thoroughly inept and hopelessly crooked regime.

    • woooo ””’ SO are you saying you guys are planning against yEKEH and his family? what right you have to stop a 2 or 3month old child from traveling? even if the document is a laissez-passer, are we not allow to travel with it in Africa any more? or is it in Europe or America we can use laissez-passer now? if government officials entitle to a Diplomatic Passport, does that mean they are force to travel with it if they don’t have it? was there any passport in the country in recent weeks? I thought the Diplomatic passport was just to give them a certain rights but not pay their travel fees? even if Yekeh is a criminal or kill or planning to kill someone which I know no one will want to do now in Liberia, does that give Weah or immigration rights to stop an innocent kid from movement? if Yekeh comment a crime now, will the government arrest the new born babies for yekeh crime? why have we come heartless? If weah need respect, why will he not respect even a 2month old child before a seating representative? why will he think or falsely try to charge yekeh for human trafficking is a law maker can go out there and stand for his own child? even if yekeh becomes a rebel leader, how many of Taylor or Prince Johnson kids were killed during the war? this is Human right abuse in place of Human trafficking and government trying to do all its can to stop people from speaking out to the extend they are or will even kill or harm your family because you spoke against the government.

      this is very wrong, besides giving them an apology, I suggest, that the government, pay for the travel expense of those travelling, their stay wherever they were going, and send security along with them until they can return to Liberia.

      lastly, if this was to happen to Weah during Taylor or Ellen time, what will you or Rep. Gray say or do? or even those of you that agree to this madness? but we will not stop speaking out until they kill us all along with our children. I know after yekeh, it will be me, or the next man standing by my side.

      I don’t support demonstration but don’t agree with many bad things happening and the suffering we all going through in Liberia why those up there enjoy, go on luxury trips while a single Liberian School don’t have bus to take kids to school and abuse us for voting for them.

      CDC carry cascade, walk in the streets, abuse Ellen, try to impeach her, plan to harm her but not work. Ellen never one day stop anyone from travelling or going to seek asylum in another country of they fear for their lives and feel they are not save in Liberia.

      now Weah is giving Liberians reason to run from their country secretly but every long rope has an end. God is watching and he will stand up for the voiceless one day in Jesus Name.

      May God save my mother land Liberia from this failure ahead. Amen.

  4. Why should Yekeh Kolubah decide to deprive other families of their 26th holidays while he is sending his family on holidays in other countries? The government should not permit this SELFISH man to disturb the whole population while he wants his family to go away and ENJOY .

    • see how foolish you are!!!. why can’t you ask yourself why should weah build mansions in few months when he could not build a single hut as senator? who is going to live in the mansion he is building? who are they going to pay to? the president of Liberia? is he doing business with Liberians or serving them? why the old people that voted him stay living in zinc round in new kru town? will the money be paid by rentals to the Liberian Government? or help kids in school that parent can not afford fees? why will the government limit itself to yekeh movement? it means yekeh is controlling weah movement daily and not weah controlling yekeh. there are people coming and leaving Liberia day and night unlawfully that posed more threat to Liberia then yekeh. whatever yekeh is doing or saying is in your interest. yekeh takes big salary monthly, he could sit down like the other lawmakers and he will not suffer a day just like weah. one day you and weah time will come to an end and very soon. just watch how our president will disgrace himself or belittle himself because or the lack of basic education and reasoning. I pray that he have the mouth to apologize to Liberians when the time comes. now he is witch hunting people, his time will come when he is not in power. just like he join others to demonstrate against Ellen, now his time has come for others to do to him the same and his is crying. just watch!!!!

      as you thinking and praying something bad happen in Liberia which will never happen by Gods help, DO you think yekeh and his family will suffer? don’t be a fool!!!! this is not ebola that has no respect for who you are. stop supporting this wrong.

  5. Zoedjallah, I may not agree with Kolubar action but I see no criminal offense committed against the Liberian people. It is his constitutional right to call for redress on issues he feels need government attention. The government proved its maturity during the July 7th demonstration and it gain my respect. If I’m to interpret this article as factual, in my opinion the government is wrong for the denial of this family to travel. The Liberian Government has much more major issues to deal with then create negative publicity for itself. Kolubar family has nothing to do with his action. His wife and children are callariou damages. Leave them alone. This is my take. “A HINT TO THE WISH IS SUFFICIENT!”

  6. THE LIS is always using this regulations to embarrass travelers; to collect money from them, if not, this regulations should be given to travel agencies to inform travelers about it, before purchasing their air tickets. If the regulation is kept secret, then they should not embarrass or harass travelers. So the Yekeh situation was used by GOL to harass him for political motivates.

  7. Yerkeh Kolubah and family must be given their freedom and Liberty to travel.
    Let us respect the constitution and each other.
    God bless everyone.

  8. Well, for my part I’m not against the government throwing its weight around when it comes to regulation as it is it’s primary responsibility. My only problem is the Liberian government under this President lacks the sophistication to carry out the complications they’ve invented. Asking someone to prove a child is their biological property boils down to a modern and sophisticated government like our neighbors, Ghana, Nigeria etc having all equipment ready to do tests without delay. Does Liberia Immigration possess the know-how to undertake such issues as proving whether a child belongs to a parent? Do they have the expertise to check and countercheck every traveler should the need arise. I’m sure the department lacks all and any of these advance devices that is generally seen in many airports worldwide. Now with the lack of these basic security equipment like DNA testers, etc, the department will continue to labor in carrying out their work based on guesses which is a thing of the distant past. Therefore I assume that targeting Hon. Kolubah’s family on such a salient issue as to proving whether the kids traveling with her were her biological kids was a bogus move enacted to return blow for blow on the Representative much as we all know of his critical stance towards the administration in general and towards the President of the Republic in particular.

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