BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday June 30, 2015 – Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite wants to see Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries cooperating to determine how to deal with their citizens who return home after fighting with radical Muslim group ISIS.
He said while terrorist fighters and those transiting the region are also of concern, governments should address the issue of citizens going to support ISIS in Syria and other countries.
“We have to reach a regional position on how to treat such individuals . . . because of the type of ideology and knowledge that they have [which] we don’t want to be fed to our general populace,” Brathwaite suggested at the opening of a three-day Customs and Border Protection Border Security Professional Exchange conference yesterday.
He later told reporters that the matter was a source of concern but “it is not something that can be dealt with individually”.
There have been reports of citizens of the region’s countries, particularly Trinidad and Tobago, going off to fight alongside the jihadist group.
And a top US commander has warned that Caribbean and South American countries are unable to track 100 foreign fighters that could return from Syria.
— Daniel John Sobieski (@gerfingerpoken) June 30, 2015
Meantime, Brathwaite said that with increases in criminal offences being recorded across the region, particularly involving the use of firearms, Caribbean governments need to pay closer attention to the crime and security agenda agreed to by the Heads of Government two years ago.
“We have the strategy, we have the organs that are supposed to implement the strategy, but it is my opinion that we are not giving the organs the wherewithal to implement it,” he said as he addressed the conference opening.
Brathwaite stressed that regional governments have a responsibility to ensure that the vehicles used to implement the crime and security strategies in the region were given the necessary resources, without totally relying on the United States or other international partners.
He pointed to the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) that provides governments with advanced passenger information for every flight in and out of the region via the air and sea ports. And he encouraged those countries which have not yet signed on – Montserrat, Haiti, Belize, Suriname and The Bahamas – to do so, as having all member states on board was vital. Brathwaite also urged regional governments to use available resources to track guns coming into the region.
Caribbean Region Aims for Tighter Control of Guns: Caribbean Community members are looking… http://t.co/I5WRoGfBRA
— LatAm Herald Tribune (@LAHT) June 10, 2015
He noted that while the region did not manufacture firearms, the majority of deaths and violent crimes were gun related.
“It seems like we are having challenges with more firearms coming into the region. Sixty per cent of the firearms coming into the region are from North America, particularly from the US, and the other 40 per cent is from Latin and South America,” the Attorney General pointed out to reporters following the opening ceremony.
“We need to look to see how we can beef up our border security to stop them from coming to the region.”
— natashaleite (@natashaleite) May 28, 2015
The issue of border security will be a major focus of the three-day meeting of Caribbean leaders which begins on Thursday.
Brathwaite said that would mean regional Heads of Government looking beyond air transportation to sea transportation.
He explained that while Caribbean countries encouraged yachts and boats for pleasure, there was a need to examine the risks associated with such practices.
“From a national security perspective, the whole issue of yachts and ships going through the region is a risk that we have to look at,” he said.
The United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr. Larry Palmer, who also attended the opening, stressed that as long as the region “remained united against common enemies”, they would continue to keep communities safe.