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Be firm, fair and respectful

Barbados is still gem of the Caribbean Sea and a paradise for visitors from all corners of the globe.

And it is common knowledge that our world-class reputation is not only justified by our white sandy beaches, exotic rum, delectable cuisine and modern infrastructure; it’s grounded in the warmth and friendly nature of Barbadians.

As a service economy dependent on tourism, we must maintain nothing less than high standards when it comes to the treatment of those who visit our shores, regardless of the guest – be it a street sweeper from Timbuktu or renowned British television host Simon Cowell.

It is for this reason that waking up Monday morning to the damning headline splashed across the pages of the Jamaica Observer, ‘Jamaican woman cites shoddy treatment by Barbadian officials at airport’, was sorely disappointing.

Sonya King, who has lived in Trinidad and Tobago for four years, recounted what she described as a horrific ordeal she and her 14-month-old son Kaleb Joseph endured last Saturday night and Sunday morning at the Grantley Adams International Airport.

According to her, the immigration officer “stamped denied entry in my book and he went further by saying that I’m going back on a Caribbean Airlines plane as soon as one is available and they will also call the authorities in Trinidad to deport me.”

The woman also reported that she was refused water to make tea for her baby and “forced to sleep on the ground on a dirty mattress and sheet which was covered in hair.”

From the outset, this media house declares it casts no blame or shame on either side involved in the matter that is now being investigated by Barbadian immigration authorities, as revealed by Chief Immigration Officer Wayne Marshall in a brief statement issued via the Government Information Service yesterday.

Marshall pledged to communicate the findings of the investigation via the same medium.

Our only hope is that the probe is conducted fairly and expeditiously and the public is not left hanging ad infinitum for the findings.

Of greater concern, though, is the bigger issue at stake – our reputation – particularly after the Shanique Myrie saga.

While commentators have argued that the historic Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling in the Myrie case was a turning point for regional integration, especially the right to freedom of movement for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals, it was not a golden moment for Barbados.

This country had to pay up $75,000 in compensation to the aggrieved Myrie. And worse, we were subjected to unfortunate comments by Caribbean neighbours who reminded us of the controversial statement made by late Prime Minister David Thompson, “ever so welcome, wait for a call.”

The fact is that in a world of TripAdvisor, Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and countless other social media platforms – where travellers can instantly spread a negative message about the treatment they receive in much the same way they can boast of what a wonderful destination Barbados is – this country must do all in its power to guard its reputation jealously.

An ounce of prevention is better than cure. A positive report is far more desired than a whirlwind of damage control.

Every Barbadian, at every level, particularly those who interact with our guests on the frontline, must ever keep in mind that tourism is our business.

 Indeed, most Barbadians are warm and welcoming, but there are exceptions that we cannot ignore.

All must be aware that even as we seek to perform our various roles to ensure both visitors and citizens are safe and secure, we equally have a duty to roll out the Barbadian red carpet.

5 Responses to Be firm, fair and respectful

  1. Veronica A. Piggott
    Veronica A. Piggott September 1, 2016 at 12:55 am

    We cannot put our hands up because of the negative comments and not protect our borders. When they go to Trinidad and Tobago and get deported there is not an issue like when they come to Barbados but we have lots of visitors who have overstayed and it is time that the immigration officials do their job and it will act as a deterrent and we would then be able to decide who are the genuine visitors and the ones who want to overstay, we are a nation of caring people but we are not afforded the natural resources like the rest of the Caribbean.

  2. Andrena Ceasar
    Andrena Ceasar September 1, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Where are the cameras

  3. jrsmith September 1, 2016 at 5:03 am

    @ ,Andrena C, hail, hail , on the button we seems not to learn anything from the last case against us, what I cannot understand who manages our Airport, the behaviour which I have seen many times arriving at this airport as a bajan made me cringed with embarrassment ..

    This is what I saw arriving from London there were 3 flights right on top of each other , every line was packed out. a bajan lady (A) came over to the officer lady (B) servicing the line I was in asking her to change places with another officer (C) what lady (A) said ,I need a more experience officer in the guest line please , because we are loaded today, lady (B) shouted out at the top of her voice, I ain gine no way, you cant tell me wha to do slamming her stamp down on the desk top hundreds of visitors seeing and hearing the exchange,

    There was a stand off as lady (B) seems she wanted to fight, so shameful this was a police sargeant who was on the opposite side saw and heard the exchange, he came over whispered something to lady (B) she did as was ask of her, I wondered what was the outcome .. was any of this recorded on camera

  4. BimJim September 1, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I am told that Immigration and Customs are not under the control of any airport authorities, so their behaviour cannot reflect onto either Bajans as a whole or onto the management of the airport. They are apparently a law unto themselves.

    A long time ago it was decided to use civilians instead of Police as Immigration Officers, and service from there on seems to have gone downhill – the red tape plodding of our “favourite” bureauracy has once again triumphed over the disciplined, polite, efficient approach of the trained Police officers.

    That the Police Sargeant’s whispering effected a change over the female Immigration Officer when she had previously refused to move suggests – and reinforces – that steupps and bad attitude still rules in Barbados, and the sooner we get rid of people like her – and the Customs Guard woman photographed sleeping, in full uniform, in a chair in the Departure Lounge – the better for the image of Barbados.

    As to negative things being said in social media, the very best way to stop that is to stop the behaviour that instigates it. You cannot please everybody all of the time, but if there is little or none of this kind of boorish behaviour then there will be little or none of it being freely reported and discussed.

    In brief, nobody can deny that there IS a problem. And these days you cannot shoot all of the messengers – although Ralph Gonsalves in St. Vincent does his best to do just that. Fortunately, Barbados is still a democratic country, not Marxist, although we are in truth and in fact some $11-$12 Billion in debt (yet still printing the money and spending it).

  5. Hal Austin September 1, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    This is jingoistic nonsense. Barbadians have got to get real. Not even our parents talked that nonsense about Gm of the Caribbean sea.
    It is like the mother of the Kray gangsters saying her boys were nice kids, wouldn’t hurt a fly.
    Barbadian immigration has a reputation; just ask any returning Barbadian and listening carefully to what they say.


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