A growing population of illegal aliens is hampering the government’s revenue collection because the Ministry of Labor (MOL) and the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) are unable to track them down to ensure that their documents are legalized, an investigation conducted by the Daily Observer has revealed.
An “Illegal alien” is defined as anyone who entered the country without authorization and anyone who unlawfully remains once his/her authorization has expired.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Labor and the Liberia Immigration Service have no central database with information on the work and status of aliens lawfully present in Liberia.
The overall problem of estimating the illegal alien population is further complicated by the fact that the majority of available sources on immigration status rely on self-reported data.
Given that illegal aliens have a motive to lie about their immigration status in order to avoid discovery, the accuracy of these statistics is dubious at best. All of the foregoing issues make it very difficult to assess the current illegal alien population in the country.
Kortu Nyandibo, the communications director of the MOL, explained that a total of 10,440 work permits were issued to aliens from 2013, 2014 and 2016.
“In 2013, 3,603 work permits were issued, while in 2014 some 3,027 and 2016, 3,715 work permits were also issued, totaling 10,440 permits,” Nyandibo indicated and admitted that for 2015 and 2017 there is no record of work permits issued to aliens.
He named the categories of work permits issued to aliens as regular, gratis, and ECOWAS. “A regular permit costs US$1,000 per person for a year, gratis, US$200 for a year, and ECOWAS, US$100,” Nyandibo said.
ECOWAS work permit gives the right to ECOWAS citizen to enter, reside, and establish economic activities in the territory of other member states.
Gratis work permits are also issued to people that enter the country for humanitarian purposes for a short period of time and the regular work permit is issued to non-Liberians to reside and work in the country.
Also, a document entitled ‘Ministry of Labor (MOL) Collection Data,’ obtained from the Sector Ministry Section, Domestic Tax Division of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) disclosed that from 2015 up to 2016, they collected US$3,708,350 and L$179,000 from ‘Regular’ work permits.
As for the gratis work permit for the same year, the LRA raised only US$164,200, and there was no Liberian dollar component, while for the ECOWAS work permits, US$2,000 was collected for 2015 and 2016, and there was also no Liberian dollar component, the document indicated.
For 2016 up to 2017, the LRA raised US$3,782,860 and L$295,850 from the regular work permit; US$168,150, L$9,700 from gratis, and US$113,700, L$523,600 from the ECOWAS work permit, according to the document.
Liberia Immigration Service’s Laurie M. Page said there were roughly 8,000 aliens estimated to be legal residents as of 2012.
“The 8,000 aliens have been issued resident permits that were documented during the administration of Commissioner Abla Gadegbeku, but since then, we have not been able to verify to know the population of aliens residing in the country,” Page stated. “This is why I am not in the position to give any correct record as of 2012 about the population of aliens residing in the country because we have not conducted any verification to know the current number of aliens in the country.”