Immigration officers are being warned they place the country in danger if they accept bribes or “look the other way” in exchange for personal gain.
Addressing the start of a week-long customer service training programme Monday morning, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Division of Defence and Security Timothy Maynard urged the immigration workers to be humble, helpful, fair, professional and polite, but not timid or fearful in enforcing the rules.
At the same time, Maynard was emphatic that the acceptance of gifts and rewards for doing their job was out of the question.
“It is necessary to constantly guard against bribes and inducements to bend rules and regulations for personal gain, and to look the other way. In this era of technology, terrorism and rampant global crime, looking the other way poses a clear and present danger to the safety, security and stability of our country and its citizens and visitors alike, and that includes you and your colleagues,” he warned.
At least 150 immigration workers are expected to undergo customer service training as part of a US$110,000 project which started in 2014 at the request of the Division of Defence and Security.
Maynard reminded the officers of the authority which they had “to grant or take away rights and privileges from citizens or to enhance or frustrate persons” with whom they come into contact.
However, he said this did not mean they should disrespect the travelling public.
“That ability never entitles us to use our authority to harass, belittle or humiliate people. We always need to show respect, exercise proper judgment, pay a listening ear and go the extra mile,” he said.
The Government official also stressed the importance of good customer service, stressing the country, especially the tourism and international business sectors, relied heavily on top quality service.
He made reference to the record 610,000 long-stay visitors to these shores last year, cautioning the immigration officers that now was not the time to become complacent.
“If we as frontline personnel and the first interaction with Barbados appear aggressive, unfriendly, unsympathetic or unwelcoming, it will severely blemish this entire visitor experience. It is unlikely that the visitor will repeat his or her visit. Moreover, the visitor will communicate to their family and friends their experience and they too will not want to visit Barbados.
“When it is considered that tourism is the main industry in Barbados . . . one would agree that we as immigration officers can ill-afford to deliver poor customer service,” Marshall said.
The customer service training is being conducted in collaboration with Compete Caribbean, and the officers will participate in a range of activities, including role playing, interview techniques and exposure to relevant laws.