A new immigration control system announced today has received the backing of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), with a senior officer describing it as long overdue.
The Immigration Department announced that effective April 1 this year, everyone entering or leaving the island through the ports of entry would be fingerprinted.
The decision was announced via a brief release from the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) in which Chief Immigration Officer Erine Griffith was quoted as saying the introduction of fingerprinting would be followed later this year by facial scanning of passengers.
The only exemptions to these regulation would be holders of diplomatic passports and children under the age of 16, the release stated.
It quoted Griffith as saying that these security measures brought Barbados “in line with international ports of entry” and were mandatory under the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulation 2015.
She also urged the cooperation of the travelling public, explaining that her department was seeking to ensure the safety of all who used this island’s ports of entry.
In supporting the measure, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Crime Lybron Sobers told Barbados TODAY it was long in coming and would strengthen the hand of the RBPF in its fight against crime.
“It would help to identify people and keep records of people that are coming and going, not only fingerprint, but facial too, although fingerprint is the best method of ID. That is something that we should be doing ever since,” Sobers said.
Asked if the proposed measure would help the police crack down on the importation of illegal firearms, the senior officer replied: “Not specifically guns; it would help deal with crime. I don’t even think that if they are doing it, they would only be doing it for guns. They should be doing it for crime and people that travelling . . . criminals moving from one country to the other. I think that would be the main thing.”
When the measure was first introduced here briefly in 2009 it created a backlash with travellers turning to social media to publicize their objections.
“Just arrived home after my usual month’s vacation. On my departure at Grantley Adams Airport I saw visitors complaining as immigration were attempting to fingerprint them on arrival. One person on refusing was told she would be refused entry and put on the plane back. I have been visiting Barbados for the past 30 years by all means fingerprint the caught illegals to prevent them returning. But as a genuine tourist I am afraid on my next visit if this procedure is still in force they may put me on the plane back after my refusal and I will be taking myself and my money elsewhere,” one person with the handle, Pharrison64 from Yorkshire Dales in northern England posted on the travel review website, TripAdvisor.
“As with most of these “security” measures, it will cause inconvenience to the law abiding majority, while the criminals will quickly find a way to get round it,” added someone with the handle, Berbician from London, UK, while “Chrisky” from Oakville, Canada wrote: “They don’t need my fingerprint to check if I’ve left. They already record that information when I arrive.”
However, not everyone was critical of the move, as reflected in this post by “BillyDove” from the UK, also on TripAdvisor: “I do know that if the Barbados government require my electronic fingerprint in order to enter the country, then of course I will give it happily. I see no reason why not; I have nothing to hide and no wish to take part in any criminal activity whilst staying there. This will certainly not stop me from visiting my holiday destination of choice.”
This afternoon, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite defended the decision, telling Barbados TODAY in a terse comment the new security measure showed that Barbados was simply following in the footsteps of other countries that had implemented similar measures.
“That’s the way of the world . . . when you travel now-a-days, is that not what happens . . . the biometrics set up? That’s the way of the world,” the Attorney General said.
“We are just moving with the times. That’s all. When you go into the US now, isn’t that automatically what happens? That’s the way of the world,” he emphasized.
Lawmen have in the past suggested that fingerprinting was an appropriate weapon in the war on crime, contending that people were coming to Barbados committing crimes and flying back out, but because of the absence of evidence they could only speculate on the situation.