PORT OF SPAIN – Trinidad has made several promises to Jamaica in an attempt to quell immigration tensions between the two countries including training for immigration officers and a faster return of travelers back to their home country if they’re denied entry. There is to be a review of the legislation and the protocols with regard to immigration. Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith announced at a joint press conference with Foreign and CARICOM.
“Trinidad has committed to training its officers, they have committed to providing facility that will ensure that persons who are not permitted to enter have dignified accommodations until returned,” Johnson-Smith said.
Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dennis Moses said those facilities should be completed within two weeks.
“We have instituted mechanisms so as to allow a respectful, proper system to be put in place so that the turnaround of nationals of Jamaica and nationals of other countries will be a short one and they can regain their countries of origin,” Moses said.
Already 15 Jamaicans held at the detention Centre have been deported with more to come soon. A further 25 or 26, have completed their special enquiry processes and will be returned to Jamaica “in the soonest order”, according to Johnson-Smith.
The retraining of immigration officers began last week Wednesday and should end by today (Tuesday). Minister Moses denied that local officers were insufficiently trained to begin with but said It’s all part of the growth process, that training will inevitably become necessary as time goes by.
“It is important to recognise the mark of good faith when countries agree to solve issues, when promises are made and they are kept,” said Johnson-Smith.
But members of the Jamaican media weren’t ready to let Moses off the hook. One reporter asked Moses, why he kept thanking Jamaica for its hospitable treatment.
“As if you did not expect that?” the reporter asked. “How does this make you feel that there have been persistent complaints that Jamaicans trying to enter Trinidad have not been similarly treated? Do you feel good about this? Or does it embarrass you, and you’re now being apologetic about the treatment you’ve received,” he continued.
The minister replied, “Feeling a sense of discomfort is not on the cards. I would have worked assiduously to deal with the situations that might have arisen.”
Minister Moses stressed that Trinidad has honoured the “no hassle” policy afforded to CARICOM members as they move through the region. He echoed Prime Minister Rowley’s statements earlier in the day that more than 97 per cent of Jamaicans who come to Trinidad and Tobago are granted entry.
Moses said the infractions which lead to deportation or trouble at the border are, overstaying the allotted six month visa, working without work permits and criminal acts like possession of narcotics. Anyone denied entry by an immigration officer is allowed to speak to senior immigration at the airport. However if they’re denied again, they can lodge a formal complaint. There have been several complaints made by Jamaica at the level of CARICOM about Trinidad’s treatment of foreign nationals. They are under investigation.
Trinidad, in return, has asked simply for a public awareness campaign so all these mix ups could be avoided.
“With an informed perspective, natural reactions might not be advanced in a precipitated fashion,” Moses said.