Letter to the Editor-Enforcing immigration laws on Seychelles’ borders


08-April-2013

In the National Assembly, I was asked about the similarities between the case of Mr Al Materi and the case of Mr Olivier Msamirizi, a Burundi national who tried to enter Seychelles, and who also tried to claim asylum. Several local newspapers have also asked this question.
The government of Seychelles takes its responsibilities of its own legislation, and immigration rules very seriously in addition to its responsibilities towards international conventions to which Seychelles is a party.

The first point that I would like to make is that Mr Msamirizi made false declarations at his point of entry into Seychelles, and did not meet the criteria for entry into Seychelles on the basis of the documents that he provided to the immigration officers at the airport. Under international norms, Seychelles is absolutely entitled to immediately deport the gentleman in such a circumstance – no matter whether a request for asylum is tabled or not.  Hypothetically, if Mr Msamirizi had met the requirements for entry, nothing would have prevented him from putting in a request for asylum.

In addition, I would like to inform that the government also requested information from Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) to try and verify the story of Mr Msamirizi. The RSF has responded that there is no journalist in Burundi known by that name, and that ‘Radio Culture’– the radio station for whom Mr Msamirizi claimed to work – had also no person of that name working for them at any time. It is clear from this information that Mr Msamirizi was therefore simply trying to make a request for asylum as a means to divert attention from the fact that he did not meet the immigration requirements at the point of entry. 

Furthermore, in the spirit of having a discussion nationally on the matter of asylum, it is important that all citizens of Seychelles bear in mind some of the following points that I thank you for agreeing to share through this correspondence:

1)      Seychelles is a desirable destination – and a desirable place to live.  The department of Immigration has confirmed that every week, there are persons who are turned away at the airport because they do not meet the immigration requirements and because they have made false declarations. These persons are of all nationalities and include persons from all continents of the world. Our immigration requirements are simple – and it is the responsibility of all travelers to our islands to be aware of them before travelling.

2)      Seychelles is also a place that has a good record of respect of human rights, and where people can live free of persecution on the basis of gender, religion, race, or political opinion. 

3)      Seychelles’ position on asylum requests must keep in mind the requirements of the respect of its own immigration policies and laws as well as its commitments under international conventions. If every person who did not meet the immigration requirements decided to request for asylum – clearly very quickly there would be a large number of persons standing in line. It is clear that this is not a desirable scenario for Seychelles. It is clearly also not acceptable that these persons would become a burden on the state or on the Seychellois tax-payers.

4)      The question as to whether or not Seychelles may accept the asylum request of Mr Al Materi – and subsequently therefore whether there is and what is the legal basis of a request for asylum in Seychelles will be put forth in the Attorney General’s written opinion on the matter. Mr Al Materi in the interim is here on a visitor’s permit.

We believe it is important that all Seychellois give careful consideration to the questions of how immigration laws are enforced at our borders, and that we also create awareness on these issues, as well as on our commitments as a responsible member of the international community. Being a responsible member of the international community does not mean that we must give asylum to anybody just because they ask for it – as this would be contrary to our own laws.
I thank you for publishing these views, on which we welcome debate.

Jean-Paul Adam
Minister for Foreign Affairs

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