Businessman and frequent flyer Robert Pitcher is hoping that new entry regulations announced today by the Immigration Department is nothing but an All Fools Day joke.
Pitcher described the decision to fingerprint all arriving and departing passengers at the island’s ports of entry from April 1 as “foolishness” and “stupidness”, arguing the move would hurt the tourism industry.
The new measure, announced today by Chief Immigration Officer Erine Griffith in a Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) release, will be followed later this year by facial scans.
Griffith urged the cooperation of the travelling public, explaining that the immigration department was “seeking to ensure the safety” of everyone using the ports.
However, in rubbishing the move Pitcher, a businessman who travels at least twice a month around the region, told Barbados TODAY the new measure would only add to existing problems at the airport and would discourage visitors.
He argued that with at least three international flights landing at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) about the same time, there was already “a ram jam at best” at the airport.
“You know what kind of confusion you would have at an airport when you have to scan everybody and fingerprint everybody; all of the people from the [other Caribbean] islands travelling from one island to the next and coming through Barbados, we would be dead with tourism in the Caribbean. We would kill ourselves off. It is foolishness,” Pitcher charged.
The Government statement pointed out that the only exemptions to the regulations would be holders of diplomatic passports and children under the age of 16.
However, Pitcher argued that such measures should be “a global thing”.
“If it is to be done, from the Queen back down should be fingerprinted and scanned. It is wrong for any Government minister holding a diplomatic passport to think that he is greater than the people who put them in power. It is foolishness,” he repeated.
The BGIS release did not give details of reasons for the measure or why it was being introduced at this time. However, it quoted Griffith as saying the security measures “brought Barbados in line” with international ports of entry and were mandatory under the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulation 2015.
Pitcher dismissed this argument, saying it would do nothing to raise the standards.
“Talking about international standards, in North America when you reach the age of 65 you do not take off your shoes, but in the Caribbean we haven’t changed that. We still continue with it,” he said, adding that tourists already had difficulty with the body scans and the requirement to remove their belts and shoes.
“Now for the next thing for you to do is to talk about you fingerprinting everybody that passing through the island? Stupidness!
. . . It will kill tourism”.
He claimed that the number of countries that fingerprinted travellers upon arrival were “few and far between” and that the move was “a step of destruction of the tourism industry in the Caribbean”.
The businessman recommended that anyone who posed a security threat should be “tracked and fingerprinted when they come to the island”. However, he made it clear he was not in favour of putting every passenger through the trouble.
Pitcher, who has been travelling for 50 years, suggested that instead of seeking to fingerprint persons entering and leaving the country, the authorities ought to ensure “we not only have an international airport but a category one airport. We need to do that. We are ten years behind with that”.
He advised Government to put its energies into fighting social ills and unemployment, and charged that the move was perhaps designed “to take the people’s mind off the present pressure being placed upon us”.
The BGIS release did not say how the system would be implemented or how cruise passengers would be processed.