National Security Minister: Thousands of illegal Jamaicans straining T&T

(Trinidad Express) There are 19,000 illegal Jamaicans living in Trinidad and Tobago who are feeding off State resources and causing this country to lose over TT$1 billion in revenue annually, according to National Security Minister Gary Griffith.
In a release yesterday, Griffith supported the actions taken by immigration officers at the Piarco International Airport, in relation to the 13 Jamaicans who were denied entry on September 30, stating that they were found to be in breach of several immigration requirements. He said the immigration officials were doing their job and the authorities cannot act as a “rubber stamp” when it comes to allowing people into the country. “It is to be noted that at this present time, there are more than 19,000 Jamaicans in Trinidad and Tobago who have entered at legitimate ports of entry, but who have remained illegally and cannot be accounted for,” stated Griffith.
Describing the statistics as “alarming”, Griffith said this means “that these people are dependent on State resources such as education and health care, may be employed and are not subject to taxes, which amounts to a loss of revenue of over TT$1 billion per annum”. Griffith said the carte blanche facilitation of entry of visitors into Trinidad and Tobago, without proper checks and balances as stipulated in the Immigration Act, creates the potential for an exponential increase in criminal activity, since the majority of these persons will have no fixed place of abode in this country and are unable to work or acquire a source of income. Immigration officers, he said, receive extensive training in various interviewing and profiling techniques, which, coupled with information communicated from Intelligence Agencies via the Border Management System (BMS) ensures that an informed and unbiased decision is made regarding admission or refusal of persons seeking entry.
He reiterated that there was no abuse of authority in refusing entry to the 13 Jamaicans and immigration authorities carry out their duties and play a pivotal role in securing this country’s borders while facilitating the free movement of Caricom nationals as enshrined in Chapter lll of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Griffith said Caricom nationals do not have an automatic entry into Trinidad and Tobago, and they must meet immigration requirements. He noted that Article 46 (3) of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas makes provision for each member state to protect its citizens. “This ultimately means that the immigration authorities of any member state may deny the entry of a Caricom national where it has been determined on reasonable grounds that the entry of the person would be detrimental to the interests of its citizens,” stated Griffith.
The minister stressed that the National Security Ministry must ensure that each and every visitor who enters this country, does not in any way become a liability to the State, which can become possible if persons attempt to enter with no skills certificate, no possible employer and nowhere to live. “Failure to follow these regulations would establish a virtual open door policy, thereby reducing immigration to a rubber stamp division, with no authority to debar anyone from entering the country. The negative implications of such a policy include an increase in the unemployment rate and an adverse effect on the national economy, since the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will now have to bear the burden of providing education, health care and other social amenities at taxpayers’ expense to tens of thousands of undocumented migrants,” stated Griffith.
The minister also refuted statements made in an Express editorial titled “Will they ever learn” on October 9 which stated he was unprepared for immigration affairs under his portfolio. The editorial also raised concerns over the refusal of the 13 Jamaicans into this country and pointed out that reports from Jamaica stated that they were left to sleep on the floor, without access to food and toilets, before being sent back to Kingston. Griffith stated that the Immigration Division is not responsible for accommodation of passengers as that charge lies with the airline. He stated that according to Section 34 of the Immigration Act Chapter 18:01, the transportation company is responsible for providing adequate and suitable accommodation for persons refused entry and must also provide security at the airlines’ expense, treat their charges in a humane manner and provide meals for them. The minister also provided further statistics which showed that on September 30—the day the 13 Jamaicans were refused entry—there were 2021 arrivals in Trinidad and Tobago, of which 23 were refused. Griffith stated that 98.86 per cent of landed passengers were accepted, demonstrating that Trinidad and Tobago has been adhering to its obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

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