Government Aims For Better Border Control
NASSAU, The Bahamas — Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham said The Bahamas Government in combining the Immigration and Customs Services is following a growing trend internationally where Governments seek to maximise efficiencies and effectiveness in the control of national borders.
The Prime Minister was speaking at the A-Squad 2011 Trainee Immigration/Border Control Officers Passing Out/Graduation at the Royal Bahamas Police Force College Grounds, Thursday, May 12, 2011.
The ceremony was the first such exercise for Immigration Border Control Officers who have been cross-trained with the Customs Department and who will function as joint Immigration and Customs Offices at Ports of Entry around the country beginning with the Family Islands.
Prime Minister Ingraham said, “Generally it is believed that combining Customs and Immigration agencies can promote and facilitate:
Improved information and intelligence sharing;
Maximum use of trained human resources so as to gain greater efficiency and productivity in the work place;
Economic savings gained through the reduction in duplication of effort particularly at low volume ports of entry.”
He told the graduates that they have learned during training that their mandate is to facilitate the orderly flow of legitimate trade and travellers even while detecting and preventing undesirables and unwanted goods from entering the country.
“This is no small task,” Prime Minister Ingraham said. “The Commonwealth of The Bahamas spans 100,000 square miles of ocean and comprises more than 700 islands, 29 of which are inhabited.
“Some of our islands have several ports of entry. We extend from Bimini in the north, which lies a mere 60 miles from Florida to within 480 miles of Haiti in the southeast.
He said, “At some points, Cuba, which borders our southwest perimeters, is less than 25 miles from our outlying cays. Adequately protecting our borders will require new methods and strategies.”
Prime Minister Ingraham said the new mandate for the Immigration/Border Control officers relates to their responsibility for enforcing the laws related to revenue collection and trade, the seizure of contraband, and the interdiction of illegal or restricted items (matters traditionally with the portfolio of customs officers).
Plus, they retain responsibility for determining the admissibility of individuals seeking entry for leisure, business, or residence.
He said, “As border control officers, your duties will entail the full range of inspection of passenger and cargoes upon arrival, and the enforcement and execution of the law as it relates to the departure of persons, and goods/cargoes.
“You are responsible to:
Facilitate the smooth entry and departure of bona fide visitors, businesspersons returning citizens and residents;
Facilitate the smooth importation of legal/authorised goods and ensure the payment of all customs duties as required by law;
Detect and identify fraudulent documentations for persons or cargoes;
Detect and prevent the entry of illegal goods or contraband including fire arms, illicit drugs and other controlled substances;
Identify and take appropriate action to prevent any assistance to illegal immigrants and or to traffickers in human beings;
Detect and stop the illegal movement of criminal elements across the borders;
Plan and participate in joint agency operations throughout The Bahamas with a view to curbing activities by criminal organisations, cartels or other groupings.”
“You are to ensure that border crossings are executed in an orderly fashion and as speedily as possible due regard being given your responsibility to ensure the laws of The Bahamas as regards immigration and revenue collection are not violated or compromised,” Prime Minister Ingraham said.
The 32 new trainee Immigration/Border Control Officers along with the 56 recently graduated Customs Officers, together total 88 officers representing a new beginning in Border Management and Control Operations.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Brent Symonette; Minister of National Security the Hon. Tommy Turnquest; Secretary to the Cabinet, Anita Bernard; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Patricia Rogers and Director, Bahamas Immigration Department, Jack Thompson also attended the graduation.
By Llonella Gilbert
Bahamas Information Services