A Government Minister says it is unfortunate that the biometrics screening programme, which was to be introduced at the country’s ports of entry last month but was deferred, was made into a partisan political issue.
Member of Parliament for St. James South and Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, made the point while contributing to the debate on the Immigration (Amendment) Bill in the House of Assembly yesterday morning. That Bill seeks to make provision for an offence of smuggling of persons in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and related matters.
However, Inniss said that the plan to fingerprint Barbadians and non-nationals coming into this country was purely a tool to aid the Immigration Department in safeguarding the country’s national security. Adamant then that it is an act that will be done in the best interest of this country, he maintained that Barbadians must all get on board with the initiative. Inniss bolstered the argument as he noted that when entering the United States, persons have to be fingerprinted and be given a retinal scan, and so such security concepts are not foreign to Barbadians.
“Americans entering the US of A also have to do it; you go to the UK on official business and you have to be fingerprinted. And it is not just developed countries by the way, many of the islands around here in the region do a similar thing as well. So we have to face a new reality, which is fingerprinting is part of the norm, it’s the new norm,” he said.
Given that, the Industry Minister said what is important is that Government gives Barbadians the assurance that these steps are only to protect the country’s borders, and that their information will not be put to any nefarious use. Rather, he said it will be another mechanism through which they can prevent the smuggling of persons into this jurisdiction as well.
He made the point while noting that the issue of fraudulent travel documents is an area that should also not be ignored. He contended that a lot of the smuggling of persons that takes place, involves the use of such documents.
“So when we go the route of the biometric passports or whatever they are called now, then people may want to say, ‘Oh Lord, you want to store my information in an electronic database somewhere’; and some smart lawyer who is looking to earn a few dollars in fees is going to put on a suit and say we are going to sue Government. Madam Deputy Speaker, it is all part of the enhanced security to ensure that we are able to mitigate against those who may seek to supply these fraudulent documents around here,” he insisted.