Complete madness was how trade union leader Caswell Franklyn described new immigration regulations announced this week that require passengers using the island’s ports of entry to be fingerprinted from April 1.
In announcing the new measure in a Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) release, Chief Immigration Officer Erine Griffith said the only exemptions would be children under the age of 16 and persons holding diplomatic passports.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this evening, Franklyn, the General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union said he was not opposed to visitors being fingerprinted upon entry. However, he had a serious issue with the fact that Barbadians were being forced to do so.
“I am a Barbadian. I have a right to come to Barbados without any hindrance. Nobody should be bothering me and giving me any conditions for me to come into Barbados.
“If you put that in place for visitors, go right ahead. They want to come to Barbados and in order for them to get into Barbados they have to accept the conditions for coming here; but I have a right to come to Barbados without any hindrance whatsoever. No person should be asking me to put my fingerprint anyplace,” he insisted.
“Suppose I said, ‘no, that I am not offering my fingerprint’, what are you going to do to me? I am a Barbadian and you cannot put me out of Barbados. This is complete madness.”
Franklyn also said he was concerned that his fingerprints may not be secure in a database, and questioned where such sensitive data would be stored.
The new requirements have also troubled social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong, who has written to Griffith and the Minister responsible for Immigration in the Prime Minister’s Office Senator Darcy Boyce demanding a written explanation.
“Please provide me with a clear written explanation as to why you consider it necessary or appropriate that I, a Barbadian citizen, should be fingerprinted when I leave Barbados and also when I attempt to return to Barbados,” Comissiong said in the letter dated February 18, 2016, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY.
The activist reminded the Freundel Stuart administration that the practice of fingerprinting persons had been associated with the procedure that persons charged with criminal offences were required to undergo.
He questioned whether the decision to require Barbadians to be subjected to fingerprinting when they travel from or to their own country was made by the Minister responsible for Immigration or by the Chief Immigration Officer.
Comissiong reminded both officials that since the BGIS release quoted the Chief Immigration Officer as stating that “these security measures were mandatory under the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulation 2015” he wanted clarification on when the regulation was enacted in Barbados and “precisely who made or enacted said regulation.”
He asked that his request be treated as an urgent matter in keeping with the terms of the Administrative Justice Act and any statement of reason for the decision should be forwarded to him in a reasonable time.
He warned the two Government officials that in light of the fact that the matter affected not only himself but “all of the other citizens of Barbados”, he intended to share the contents of the two pieces of correspondence with the national community through the news media.