Monrovia, Liberia: About 166 Liberian migrants who had been stranded in Niger for months arrived home Thursday after their repatriation was facilitated by Niamey and supervised by the UN migration agency, IOM.
ECOWAS radio in the Liberian capital reported that the
Liberians arrived at the Roberts International Airport ((RIA) onboard a flight chartered by the government in Niamey.
They were screened jointly by officials of the Liberia immigration service and the Liberia refugee agency, LRRRC, before being taken to a safe location for re- unification with their families and relatives.
Most of the returnees appeared to be economic migrants in search of “greener pastures” like other African migrants who journeyed via North Africa, but their hopes more often were dashed.
In a separate development, police authorities this week reported hauling some 700 kilos of illicit drugs in a swoop on the Monrovia Central prison and others here.
Inmates claimed the drugs entered; thanks to visitors frequenting the over crowded prison daily.
Our Monrovia correspondent quoting Police said one senior prison warden was arrested in connection with illegal
Infiltration at South beach prison, built in the 60s to accommodate 300 inmates, but now holds more than one thousand pretrial detainees and convicts.
Hard core drugs consumption is pervasive throughout Liberia with communities in Monrovia competing for first place in proliferation of ghettos for substance users.
Smoking in public places is banned in Liberia, but distraught youngsters provokingly roam streets including Broad street puffing fumes of illicit drugs, which police say, embolden them to prey on unsuspecting persons.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN agency which is working to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities through sustainable development in over 170 countries and territories globally says, the Correctional Services in the West African nation of Sierra Leone do not yet “have the capacity to ensure the safety and security of inmates, staff and society. Prison infrastructure is outdated; quarters are overcrowded, lack ventilation and clean sanitary facilities; and medical facilities are substandard, resulting in poor health conditions. In addition,inmates lack sufficient nutritious food and water.”
According to the UNDP, a two year project under its Effective and Inclusive Democratic Governance cluster is aimed at “…implementing its Strategic Plan to improve life in correctional facilities, in accordance with Sierra Leonean law and its international human rights obligations.
In its explanation for undertaking the project, the UNDP says, “All human beings have inalienable rights and these rights must not be compromised – even during the legal deprivation of liberty. Humane prison conditions are a prerequisite of fair criminal justice systems. All pretrial detainees have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty,and the deprivation of liberty should be the only punishment of sentenced inmates.
Poor detention conditions can be detrimental to inmates’ rehabilitation and reintegration to society. They are also a violation of the United Nations(UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”
According to the World Prison Brief (WPB), a global data base of prisons systems, Sierra Leone’s prison population, as of November, 2017, was put at 4,179 inmates. Of this number,about 2,112 are in pre-trial detention (50.5%). 32 women remain in pre-trial detention.
The average female population rate, according to WPB, was at 66 in 2006, 79 in 2010 and jumped to its present level of 136 in 2017; female prison population rate per 100,000 of the national population.
The UNP project, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) guides its support for the promotion of the rule of law and ensuring that there is equal access to justice for all and transparency in the country’s judicial system “…actively seeks to reduce the pretrial and remand population in Sierra Leone..”
The United Nations says that it is a violation of its Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners when detainees are held in poor conditions which contribute to their rehabilitation and re-integration into society.
“All human beings have inalienable rights and these rights must not be compromised – even during the legal deprivation of liberty. Humane prison conditions are a prerequisite of fair criminal justice systems. All pretrial detainees have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty,and the deprivation of liberty should be the only punishment of sentenced inmates,” the UNDP says.
Human rights audits were held in 3 Correctional facilities in the West African country and 19 personnel including regional heads training on the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Sierra Leone has 4 regional Correctional Services Branches.
In a statement on its website the Director of Sierra Leone Correction Service Superintendent Sanpha Bilo Kamara writes that, “…we will live to execute correctional services; keep offenders[inmates] off the criminal human traffic and then transform them to form part of a health national human resource where they[inmates] will ride and travel towards economic growth leading to national development…”
But prison reforms which were advanced since 2010 continue to lag in full implementation. The country’s prison system is plagued by inadequate transportation, poorly prepared meals and living quarters, congestion, inadequate health care, poorly trained and underpaid prison staff, and often long pre-trial detention for detainees.Conditions fall below international standards.
The $1.5 million dollars projected which is supported with donor funds from the US Government ends in December, 2018.