Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee has lauded a five-day training session for Customs and Immigration officers by United States Customs and Border Protect-ion Homeland Security facilitators and acknowledged the country’s inability to effectively monitor its borders.
The facilitators are Hachim Ndiaye, Moses Vasquez and Chris Smith.
Twenty-four officers are participating in the sessions which will train them in areas such as targeting, interviewing, observational techniques, behavioural analysis, border control, security, luggage examination, fraudulent document detection, imposter identification, and officer safety and contraband concealment.
The workshop’s theme is “Strengthening Border and Port Security”, and it is a direct follow-up to an assessment which was done by the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), Organisation of American States, in August this year.
The assessment was done to determine Guyana’s training and assistance needs.
Particular attention was paid to the border control infrastructure and the ports’ ability to receive and process advance passenger information (API).
Several areas at both the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri and the Moleson Creek crossing were identified.
CICTE has provided training and assistance to a number of Caribbean countries and has also provided port security assessments and terrorism police engagement exercises.
It has also partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in their legislative assistance programme.
Earlier this year, the security forces at the CJIA benefited from an Ioniser 111, which is expected to enhance their technical capacity in detecting items containing narcotic substances.
However, there is still much to be desired from the operations at ports and borders here.
Speaking at the opening session held at Customs House, Main Street yesterday, Rohee noted that monitoring the country’s borders will always be a challenge, adding that Guyana is faced with many limitations.
Resorting to technology
In this regard Rohee pointed out that many countries have gone the way of resorting to technology to defend their borders, a strategy which government is studying, he said.
However he said financial as well human resource limitations were contributory factors in the effective monitoring of borders and ports.
He said while the introduction of technology could go a far way in the effort to police borders, this was just one of the measures which governments around the world take to protect their borders.
“But this will not work unless those given the responsibility ensure that these measures work to protect their borders and (it) will only work if those who have the responsibility to ensure that this happens are properly trained,” he asserted
In his presentation to participants too, Rohee pointed out that special attention should also be paid to the communities at the borders since they are the ‘eyes and ears’ for officials. “Because when they notice any illegal happening it is important that they tell us,” he stressed.
Two ports of entry
Against this background Rohee pointed to the two ports of entry currently operating between Guyana and Suriname.
“We have two ports there, a legal and an illegal port, how secure can our border with Suriname be,” he questioned, adding that this was just one of the things which pose a challenge to Guyana.
Meanwhile, representative of CICTE/OAS Sheridon Hill in brief remarks said that the two bodies were committed to assist the Caribbean to secure its borders in the fight against terrorism and provide law enforcement and security officials with modern, lasting capabilities and internationally accepted best practices.
Under the programme, he said, over US$2M has been invested in a wide range of security programmes in the Caribbean for this year alone. The two bodies also played a critical role in providing support to the region in preparation for Cricket World Cup 2007.
He stated that to date the two bodies have collectively trained over 100 customs, immigration and other law enforcement officials in Jamaica, Grenada and St. Lucia.
Hill disclosed too that CICTE is currently negotiating with officials of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) and the government of Guyana to schedule an assessment of travel document issuance, migration and border management practice and policies here.
Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Khurshid Sattaur who also gave brief remarks pointed to the timeliness of the workshop.
Representatives from the United States Embassy, the OAS and CANU attended the workshop’s formal opening session.
Acting Commissioner of Police Henry Greene who was slated to deliver brief remarks could not attend the briefing and was represented by Superintendent of Police Glasgow who made brief comments on his behalf.