Immigration monitoring worrying trend
Home Affairs Minister Adriel Brathwaite says authorities are keeping a close eye on the trend of people marrying in a bid to secure their immigration status in Barbados.
He said several cases have already been detected, but warned that this would not be tolerated.
To counter the problem, he told the House of Assembly this morning that a policy had been developed in which the people who apply for citizenship were interrogated, and granted a three-year work and reside permit to determine whether they were in a marriage of convenience.
“In Barbados, that is a challenge that we have where individuals have been deported from Barbados and have returned providing a certificate showing that they have been married to a Barbadian, obviously, out of Barbados,” he said.
“We have heard stories that it is in fact a business, that there are people who charge for facilitating these type of marriages.”
Data from the Immigration Department indicate there were 145 applications for reside and work permits as a result of marriage
However, Brathwaite said this was not the only challenge facing Immigration.
He pointed to reports of visitors remaining in Barbados illegally, preventing their children from attending school because they do not have immigrant visas.
Additionally, he said the country needed to take a stance on incidents in which pregnant women were entering the country with the intention of having their babies gain Barbados citizenship, and having them return 18 years later to benefit from social services.
During his tabling of the Immigration (Amendment) Bill that seeks to strengthen the penalties for those who break that law, the Home Affairs minister presented data on applications that had gone before the Immigration Department.
He said officers had processed some 1.38 million people at the Grantley Adams International Airport in 2013.
The department also processed 860 applications for citizenship, 52 for permanent residence, 164 for immigrant status, and 445 to reside and work.
There were also 2,711 work permit applications processed, 2,664 for student visas, and 4,090 for extension of stay.
Some 15,141 new passports were issued, while 133 applications for recognition of Caricom Skilled Nationals were processed.
Minister Brathwaite said there were challenges relating to the right of establishment, one of the regimes that have been signed on to under the regional arrangement.
“Some individuals come in, they claim that they are hairdressers for example but go on to do some other non-skilled job,’ he explained, while issuing a caution to his colleagues about a call for Barbados to increase its population.
“Any planned growth of our population must have the attendant checks and balances. If there is one criticism that I have about the free movement as was contemplated, is that I’m not sure if the Heads [of Government] looked individually and collectively at what we could afford to do at that point in time,” he said.
Using Barbados as an example, the Home Affairs Minister said the island was “two secondary schools short and probably four primary schools short. We have challenges in terms of housing for our people at this point in time, we have challenges in terms of the level of health care that we want for our own people at this pointin time.”
Meantime, he defended the work of the department, saying an analysis had shown that it was one of the most productive among all Government institutions.
The next move, he said, was for the department to move to a paperless system.
“It is my hope that within the next three to five years the Immigration Department will go paperless. I can’t imagine the sheer volume of paper that they have if they process in 2013, 1,381,577 individuals coming in and going out of the country,” he remarked.
The department is scheduled to move to new headquarters on Hincks Street, Bridgetown by the middle of next year, with funding provided through a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank.