Barbadians and permanent residents will continue to be exempted, but Government may still consider the introduction of fingerprint scanners at this country’s ports of entry, the Minister of Home Affairs who once challenged the measure’s constitutionality has said.
Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson – who as a lawyer in private practice succeeded in pressing the court to ban the unconstitutional fingerprinting of citizens as they leave and enter the island’s air and seaports – has said CARICOM or international visitors may have to undergo the process.
“The law is clear on that particular issue that you cannot compel Barbadians to be fingerprinted at our ports of entry. This also goes for permanent residents, who have under the Constitution, a right of entry into the country. . . . But as I said there is nothing that would stop you from fingerprinting non-Barbadians,” said Hinkson.
But the Minister has declared that the current prototype kiosks currently placed at the Grantley Adams Airport, will not be retrofitted to do fingerprinting. The biometric machines at the airport only allow for facial recognition. He said any decision to introduce further components to the security process would be made after Government does a thorough analysis of the pilot project.
“This is not a Government that is about taking any action that is not constitutional and certainly I could not preside over a Ministry that could do that… We are still at the pilot project phase and clearly this something that will require legislation. But as I said this not required as part of process of finding out who is arriving in Barbados and right now the pilot project does not involve that [fingerprinting], said Hinkson. He revealed that plans were in the pipeline to bring legislation that would make biometric verification mandatory for non-nationals at all ports of entry.
He argued that this move would significantly improve the efficiency of the Immigration Department in the processing of visitors to the island.
“We are working on bringing the legislation to Parliament. The Cabinet of Barbados agreed in principle to pilot project, there is a model CARICOM legislation, which includes kiosk and advance passenger information, which we in Barbados are behind on. So we are going to be working on that to make it mandatory,” said Hinkson.
Another irony was not lost on the minister who noted that he headed a team of lawyers representing fellow attorney and political activist David Comissiong in the 2016 constitutional case against Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and Chief Immigration Officer Wayne Marshall. Comissiong is now Ambassador-designate to CARICOM.
It was in this case High Court Justice Pamela Beckles ruled that the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulations 2015 “were not properly and lawfully enacted in accordance with the provisions contained in Section 41 of the Interpretation Act, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Barbados for the enacting of regulations that are subject to negative resolution and as a result are null and void and of no legal effect”.