Weapons trafficking is one of the biggest threats to Barbados and more must be done to bring to justice, those responsible for bringing firearms into the island.
Speaking on the Immigration Amendment Bill in the House of Assembly this afternoon, Leader of the Opposition and Member of Parliament for St. Michael West, Bishop Joseph Atherley, stated that, “We have a problem with firearms being brought into this country illegally and sold, and we have not been effective in terms of finding out who is responsible and bringing them to justice.
“When we have shooting incidents, we bury the victim and put the perpetrator in jail, but no one ever asks where the gun came from. I think we have passed the day where the people who put guns in the hands of these young men are not investigated or prosecuted.”
Speaking also to the illegal drugs trade, Atherley said human trafficking was a major concern for immigration authorities as well.
“Figures from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have said there were about 21 million people who are victims of forced labor in the world, and of these about 2 million are in Latin America and the Caribbean, so this is real to us.
“The share of victims trafficked outside of prostitution in the Caribbean and Latin America is 44% higher than in Europe and Central Asia, and the main countries identified with this tend to be Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” Atherley told the Lower House.
On the topic of prostitution, Bishop Atherley said we should move away from the current politically correct practice of referring to them as “sex workers”.
“Prostitution, trading in human flesh, is the highest form of exploitation on human dignity. I fully support the prohibition of people known to be in this business from coming into Barbados. The expression “sex worker” is one that tries to bring a measure of dignity to an undignified lifestyle, and while we understand sometimes people feel they are forced into such activity, it should not be encouraged.”
In introducing the amendment, Minister of Home Affairs and Member of Parliament for St. James North, Edmund Hinkson, was pleased that the amendment had removed people with physical or mental disabilities and the visually-impaired from the original 1976 Act.
Referring to the provision as “Victorian” in nature, Hinkson said, “It assumes that people with visual and physical disabilities cannot make a living. If they are coming on a visit to Barbados they aren’t coming to work, but immigration could have prevented them from coming in under the old law. However, we must bear in mind that some people with physical disabilities in North America are wealthier than many Barbadians, with more financial capital because they have gained personal injury settlements for millions of dollars from car accidents, botched surgeries or other circumstances.”
Hinkson also spoke to provisions in the law relating to people with certain illnesses. “This law also maintains that persons who suffer from communicable diseases under the Health Act could be prohibited from entering Barbados. This is sometimes impractical because you cannot look at a person and tell what disease they have, but it makes sense because our security could be threatened if someone comes in with a major disease. The discretion is still left to the Minister of Immigration to allow someone in to seek treatment at a hospital or other health care facility, and this will be important as we seek to develop the health tourism sector.”