Government will table in parliament tomorrow an amendment to the Immigration Act bringing into law the Grantley Adams Airport’s passport processing kiosks in a measure that forms part of people management initiatives ranging from importing skilled labour to reduction of recidivism.
Installed a while back, the kiosks were opened for use by passengers in a pilot project since September, and now satisfied with the tests Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson said last night that government will give legislative support to their application for speedier processing of arriving passengers.
Hinkson, the St James North member of parliament, told a branch meeting at the St Alban’s Primary School that he would be “bringing legislation on Tuesday to operationalise kiosks that anybody will be able to use the kiosks unless they have a passport that the kiosks can’t read, or you are an unaccompanied minor”.
Explaining that this is part of the “speeding up process of how border security will deal with you”, he assured constituents, “this will not be compromising our border security because we now have advance passenger information on each person coming into Barbados as to whether or not they’re security risks”.
The Government Information Service had reported Hinkson saying last year that the kiosks operated on a facial identification process. There was no fingerprinting during the pilot project and Barbadians will not be fingerprinted when the kiosks are granted legal status.
Acceleration of immigration processing time is being pushed in collaboration with the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology. And on that subject Minister Kay McConney had earlier spoken to the St James North constituents about government’s introduction of technology to speed up all processes.
The legal foundation for Immigration officers to act on advance passenger information was given last month when Parliament passed an amendment to the Immigration Act, “to revise the provisions of the Act with respect to the submission and receipt of advance passenger information and to provide for other related matters”.
Hinkson said the amendments were, “part of the whole aspect of what we’re doing, making it easier to live in Barbados from the time you land”.
As regards living in Barbados Hinkson spoke of a two-pronged approach to enhancing the labour force in Barbados by addressing the island’s immediate need for skilled persons through ‘managed migration’, and at the same time amending ‘archaic’ laws to emphasise education over severe punishment for teenaged and adult lawbreakers.
“We believe that our population has to be developed. Certainly, I as minister of immigration am firmly of that view that we have too small a population for Barbados to sustain and grow this economy and we will have managed migration into this country especially among our fellow Caribbean people who are productive, who will make a mark.”
He said that the island, however, would not be open to “those who are going to be a drain on our economy or public purse,” but would be welcoming “those who are productive, who have skills”.
“We need more young people in this country in their most productive age.”
He added: “We’re not going to do like what the then minister of education said two or three years ago that people must get more children because they will take 20 years plus nine months before a child might become productive if conceived today”.
While Barbados supplements skilled labour through temporary immigration measures, Hinkson’s Home Affairs Ministry will be tackling the loss of Barbadians in the workforce through early and unnecessary incarceration and the absence of proper training to ensure convicts are employable and not offend again for re-imprisonment.
Hinkson said his ministry would be seeking to replace the current Juvenile Act because it penalises young people for offences when they may be crying for help.
He spoke of teenagers being arrested for offences, “maybe as simple as wandering. Girl wandering in the night, 10 o’clock, age 13 … She might be wandering because somebody at home interfering with her … yet [placed] before court the next day and a magistrate, by law, has to remand [her] if found guilty for three to five years minimum”.
“That is what it is under these colonial laws that we should have got rid a long time,” he said.
He said that government was looking at much fewer jail sentences coupled with reform and more probation.
“Clearly if the child is involved in drugs … If that is an issue we try to rehabilitate that child.
“But it doesn’t make sense sending you down to Government’s boys or girls’ industrial school, which is going to tarnish your life.”
Hinkson said that reform of people management in areas within his ministry was part of a total government thrust.
“None of these things is in isolation. All of these things are part of a package we have to work on in terms of taking our country to another level.” (GA)