BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday February 19, CMC – Barbados government legislators have defended the immigration policy of the island despite a recent ruling by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice awarding a Jamaican national a substantial amount of money for being denied entry.
Debating the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, the legislators urged immigration officers not to be intimidated by travellers who sought to subvert the island’s immigration policy.
Attorney General and Home Affairs Minister Adriel Brathwaite, who has warned of non-nationals going “underground” in a bid to evade authorities, said that the CCJ ruling may have affected some immigration officers who are feeling intimidated.
“They should not and cannot execute their responsibilities looking over their shoulders worrying about whether or not Barbados will be sued. Therefore, CARICOM has offered some guidance in terms of this issue of the automatic six months entry into Barbados. The Solicitor General’s chambers has offered some guidance, [and] I know we’ve had some discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Brathwaite said.
Brathwaite said ”notwithstanding the court ruling no one can determine the national security concerns of the country.
“We have a responsibility as the elected members of Parliament and part of our responsibility is to secure our borders and, therefore, we should not water down what we do because we are afraid of what people might say outside the region, in the region about being sued.”
“I am saying and I am encouraging them when individuals come in front of them, do not be afraid to interrogate them. Yes, there is a six months automatic entry, but you must ask the questions. How can you determine whether or not a person is able to provide for himself if he says he’s here for three weeks? How can you determine if he’s able to provide for himself.”
Brathwaite said the government would also not tolerate any attempt to intimidate immigration officers.
“We will not tolerate that. We will not tolerate the abuse of our immigration officers and they must be able to go about their duties fearlessly and we would provide whatever mechanisms to make sure they are protected,” he said.
Brathwaite said that the authorities were also moving to stamp out the practice of foreigners seeking immigrant status not keeping appointments with the Immigration Review Committee, sometimes on the advice of their lawyers.
He told legislators that the amendment to the Immigration Act was aimed mainly at combating passport fraud, and the government was moving in the direction of introducing biometrics with regulations providing for individuals to be subjected to facial or retina scans and fingerprinting so the authorities could be satisfied that the subject was who they claimed to be.
Finance Minister Chris Sinckler, who also contributed to the debate said “when I hear this policy about CARICOM, about free movement of persons and all of these things, even though I am a regionalist, I know that with great power comes responsibility. Even though I give up some my sovereignty under CARICOM, I still have a responsibility to protect the citizens of my country and protect the visitor too.
“Some persons may be coming for things that are not necessarily wholesome. They, too, might be exposed to things that they might have not been exposed to if they had not tried to engage in mischief.
“I know as a former immigration officer that almost on a daily basis there is always some mischief-maker who is secreting themselves in a country and engaging in illegal acts, and immigration has to be going for them. The department has to be using physical resources, human resources and financial resources going after people. There are people who find ways to bypass security, get into the country and then you have a lot of problems with them,” he said.
The Finance Minister said that “if the Immigration Department had to issue a press release every time they encounter someone they had to intercept or go for in that regard and to deport, they would have to be a press release in the paper every minute of the day.
“That is the reality. Many Barbadians are unaware of this because they are not exposed to it at that level. I know the Minister of Immigration is aware because he has to deal with it on a daily basis, but the average citizen is not. We must be aware of the challenges these people have to deal with,” he added.