There have been further delays in Government’s plans to relocate the offices of the immigration department to the repurposed Barbados Tourism Investment Inc (BTI) car park on Princess Alice Highway in Bridgetown.
Work began last year on the new headquarters and Government had given its assurance to officers that they would be out of the woeful conditions at Careenage House on Wharf Road, The City by June of this year.
However, Minister with responsibility for Immigration Senator Darcy Boyce today revealed that work would now be completed by August instead. He gave no reasons for the delay when he addressed the Immigration and Customs Officers’ Border Security Workshop at the Barbados Defence Force headquarters at St Ann’s Fort, Garrison, St Michael.
Nonetheless, Boyce made it clear the new timeline was not an indication that Government was neglecting the officers’ longstanding concerns.
“As a Government we are also mindful of the need to improve working conditions for our staff. In this regard, as Minister responsible for Immigration I want to assure all immigration officers that providing a comfortable working environment for you remains a priority. I am therefore pleased to confirm that the work started on your new home at Princess Alice Corporate Centre, with funding from the Caribbean Development Bank, is at a very advanced stage and expected to be complete by August this year,” Boyce said.
This is the latest in a series of delays dating back to 2011, when Careenage House was deemed unfit for occupation. Workers had complained that they were falling ill and developing respiratory problems due to the mold and fungus infesting the building.
They also registered deep frustration when the Freundel Stuart administration failed to keep its promise of completing the new offices in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations last year.
Meantime, Boyce today announced another delay, this time to the promised introduction of 14 automated passport control kiosks in the arrival hall of Grantley Adams International Airport.
The minister had announced last November that the kiosks would have become operational from February this year, and would initially be available for use by Barbadians and people with permanent status here.
While not announcing a new date for the introduction of the kiosks, Boyce said the new border control technology would be rolled out later this year as part of efforts to accelerate the processing of arriving passengers.
He said the system was being installed by a Canadian company which has installed similar kiosks at airports and seaports in North America and the Caribbean.
The minister stressed that in addition to significantly quicker processing times upon arrival, the system would uphold “high standards of security without increasing cost of operations”.
“We are making sure that all pertinent regulations are being reviewed so that new regulations or changes in existing regulations can be properly made before the system comes into operation,” he revealed, adding that border control officers were participating in sensitization workshops to prepare them for the arrival of the self service border control technology.
In addition, Boyce revealed that plans were in the works for a more efficient shift systems for both Customs and immigration officers in an effort to ensure that backlogs during peak time do not occur as a result of inadequate border personnel.
“I have asked that discussions be held with the Ministry of Civil Service and the unions on re-designing the shift systems in order to ensure that peak arrivals find Immigration and Customs always fully staffed to facilitate the quick and easy flow of passengers through border control,” Boyce said.