(Trinidad Guardian) Immigration officers have taken a vote of no confidence in T&T’s acting Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews. At least 300 officers have signed a petition which was sent to the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The PSC has now launched an investigation into claims which suggest that immigration officers throughout T&T are dissatisfied with the manner in which Gandhi-Andrews carries out her duties.
The petition listed some concerns by officers, including issues with management, general indiscretions, court cases, facilities issues and internet, information technology and communications issues.
The petition, along with a letter—“No confidence in acting Chief Immigration Officer, Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews”—dated August 7, 2017, was sent to Auditor General Majeed Ali.
That letter, which was signed by President of the Public Services Association, Watson Duke, was also copied to The Chief Personnel Officer; Director of Personnel Administration; Permanent Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Security.
He added that the following information supported its call to put an end to the unsatisfactory performance of the acting CIO by having her removed.
One of the major issues highlighted in the letter is that there has been no solution implemented to alleviate the backlog created by the closure of the Moonan Building on Frederick Street, which houses the Permanent Residence and Citizenship (PR&C) section of the Immigration Division. It was closed with no alternative arrangements made for the services being offered there.
Duke stated in the letter that there are an estimated 4,000 outstanding Permanent Residence & Citizenship applications that are yet to be completed; PR&C reports sent for vetting by the acting CIO invariably remain in an office for months.
He added that there are about 400 requests to lift Deportation Orders with no strategy to reduce the amount.
When contacted on the issue, Duke said “It is all work related and the PSA was asked to send the letter on behalf of the workers. It is nothing to do with the acting CIO personally but with her duties,” Duke said.
“There are certain inconsistencies that they believe should not be displayed by someone holding such a position and this consequence is that it affects her ability to deliver.”
He expects that by the end of February, he should get a detailed report from the PSC on their findings and recommendations.
On October 10, 2017, in another letter sent to Sandra Jones, Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister, Duke noted that the PSA has established sufficient evidence to support a motion of no confidence in the acting CIO’s ability to manage the affairs of the Division.
He added that “accordingly, the Association does not recommend that the acting CIO Mrs Gandhi-Andrews be appointed to the post of Chief Immigration Officer”.
On January 2, 2018, the Director Personnel Administration (Ag), Carla Bailey, acknowledged receipt of the letter.
“Please be informed that the Commission would consider where relevant,” the letter added.
Efforts to reach Gandhi-Andrews for comment proved futile as calls to her phone went unanswered and she did not reply to messages sent via whatsapp up to late yesterday.
On November 12, 2017, officers were found in breach of the Immigration Act following the chaos caused that day by an apparent sick-out action at the Piarco International Airport.
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said a detailed report was prepared and submitted to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on the matter on November 13, 2017.
It was said that only two of the 15 immigration officers turned up for duty at Piarco, resulting in hundreds of passengers having to wait as long as four-and-a-half hours to be cleared after arriving on flights.
In a release issued by Dillon on November 13, 2017, Dillon said a report was submitted by the CIO and added that necessary actions will be taken against anyone found culpable.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also noted that the disruption at the airport that day “disheartened him”. Rowley added that he was disappointed.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert also expressed concern over the situation.
It was said that the officers who failed to report for duty that day in question were either on casual leave or sick leave due to “red eye”.
However, Duke confirmed that any punitive action against the officers are yet to be taken and added that he could not comment further as the matter is currently before their attorneys.