By March next year, immigration officials could be operating a new two-million-dollar system which allows for the thorough screening of visitors even before they reach our shores.
The initiative is part of Barbados’ ongoing efforts to advance the fight against crime through amendments to the immigration act and the introduction of an intelligence system to be rolled out at the country’s main ports of entry.
The Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) will allow for the screening of over 150 million air and sea travellers per year across the region through an automated network aimed at enhancing border security.
The donation from the US Government will give law enforcement officers key information on passengers and crew members prior to their arrival and departure from Barbados and other CARICOM member states.
The system was officially handed over to CARICOM’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) during a ceremony at the Wildey, St Michael headquarters of the US embassy.
To facilitate this and other security initiatives, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson said Government would be amending key legislation by the end of March next year.
This would include, he said, the requirement for the submission of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data and other recommendations that have been included in the harmonized legislation that would help us address several of these border security challenges before they reach our shores.
The Minister noted that the new equipment would address “the serious and deep issues” of drug trafficking and the flow of illegal weapons into the country both of which create an unstable and dangerous environment.
“A system such as the one we are receiving today in the region will assist us in not only crime fighting, but in addressing threats such as pandemics and even migration. All of us in the Caribbean are struggling and fighting against the dynamics of the socio-economic underdevelopment which we live in. Underpinning all of this is security.”
“A stable and secure environment are a fundamental prerequisites for the increased investment and growth that we all seek. Therefore we can continue to extol the benefits of CSME as we have done for years. But for it to be a success, we must ensure that the appropriate security mechanisms are in place,” Minister Hinkson said.
Assistant Director of Strategic Services for CARICOM IMPACS, Earl Harris pointed to the revolutionary developments and noted, “This contribution of equipment and software has in many ways revolutionized what we are now capable of doing on behalf of member states, as we now also have the ability of doing rules-based targeting instead of comparisons against nominal watch lists only. In other words, we can now go from the general or unknown to the specific and to do so even more quickly,” he said.
In addition, Harris said CARICOM was pursuing agreements with other countries, starting with a Memorandum of Understanding for Information and Intelligence sharing with the United Kingdom.
“We likewise have completed similar MOU’s with the Dominican Republic and Panama. There are ongoing discussions with the kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of France.
“This is all in the effort and recognition that, while we are a CARICOM institution, we have geographical neighbors that are French, Dutch and the Latin American countries surrounding the Yucatan Peninsula, and we cannot forget our member state, Belize. To maximize our fight against transnational threat, there needs to be the widest cooperation possible,” Harris said.
Linda Taglialatela, the United States of America’s Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, lauded the initiative as “another example of successful U.S-Caribbean partnership.”