The decision by the Immigration Department to fingerprint Barbadians leaving and entering the country effective April 1 could be challenged in court.
Social activist David Comissiong said he was considering suing former Chief Immigration Officer Erine Griffith and Minister Responsible for Immigration Senator Darcy Boyce over the stated policy.
Both Boyce and Griffith, who has retired since making the announcement, failed to respond to letters from Comissiong dated February 18, 2016 in which he sought an explanation.
Describing the failure of the two officials to respond to his letters as “the height of arrogance”, the attorney-at-law told Barbados TODAY he would give serious consideration to challenging the policy in court.
“I will make a determination shortly where that is concerned [but] it is quite possible because I am highly dissatisfied that a policy as serious and as fundamental as that one could simply be out of the blue, imposed on the people of Barbados without any discussion, without any proper explanation and that when you make a reasonable request for an explanation you do not even receive a response. It is not good enough,” an aggrieved Comissiong said.
The longstanding attorney-at-law said he was not surprised that neither Boyce nor Griffith responded because it was typical of them.
He claimed that he had written the Government Senator several letters during the period he had served as Minister Responsible for Immigration and had not received a single response.
The social activist added that also had a poor record when it came to acknowledging correspondence from lawyers.
“So this behaviour is the norm . . . .None of that surprises me.”
Comissiong contended that no proper explanation had been given to Barbadians for the decision to fingerprint them when they leave the country or return to the country.
In his letters of February 18, 2016 to Griffith and Boyce, Comissiong reminded them that the practice of fingerprinting persons was associated with the procedure for persons charged with criminal offences.
Unable to put his finger on who was responsible for making the decision, Comissiong requested that either Boyce or Griffith provides him with a written statement of their reasons for the new policy.
“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. Please treat this as an urgent matter, and in keeping with the terms of the Administrative Justice Act of Barbados, kindly provide me with your statement of reasons for the decision within a reasonable time,” he wrote at the time.
Comissiong also warned that the contents of his letters and the responses would be shared with Barbadians through the news media.
A Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) release on February 15 quoted Griffith as saying effective April 1, the Barbados Immigration Department would implement fingerprint everyone entering or leaving the country through the island’s ports.
The release did not say how the policy would be implemented, particularly at the cruise ship berth, or how much it would cost.
The release said the new policy would be followed by facial scans later this year. The only exemptions to these regulations, it said, were holders of diplomatic passports and children under the age of 16.
The Chief Immigration Officer said these security measures would bring Barbados in line with international ports of entry and were mandatory under the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulation 2015, according to the BGIS release.