Basseterre, St. Kitts, 20th July 18, 2018 (MyVueNews.com) – As a small developing country, St. Kitts and Nevis has had its own problems in securing its borders and controlling the pace of immigration, especially from new ethnic groups.
During the past 20 years, both islands have seen a massive increase in the immigrant population largely represented by citizens from the Dominican Republic, Guyana, India, and to a lesser extent, China.
Now that the federal government has taken the decision to civilize the Department of Immigration, separating it from the Police Force, new efforts will be made to introduce an enforcement unity within the new immigration division.
In times past, it was police officers who were tasked with the responsibility to ensuring that all visitors were in compliance with their conditions of stay and the laws of the country.
In coming months, that assignment will be in the hands of newly appointed Chief Immigration Officer, Merclyn Hughes and her team of officers. She recently served as an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
The enforcement unit, explained Hughes, “will be charged with a number of duties including reducing illegal immigration and human trafficking.”
Speaking at a recent government press conference, the Chief Immigration Officer admitted that her department has recognized that there are serious challenges that have to be tackled as priority.
One major problem that some countries have had to fight against, including here in the Caribbean, has been human trafficking. However, Hughes indicated that while there is no clear evidence that human trafficking is an issue in St. Kitts and Nevis, the officers will remain vigilant for any occurrences.
She said on Tuesday, 17th July, 2018, at a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Timothy Harris, that officers will conduct standard operations such as intelligence gathering and visits to job sites – a common practice for immigration officials in countries around the world.
The visits are currently undertaken by police officers attached to the Immigration Department.
But, Hughes was careful to explain that “we are a country that believes in immigration, but do it legally she cautioned.”
She also admonished that immigrants must also pay their taxes, subscribe to Social Security and regularize themselves.
However, Ms. Hughes explained that a public education campaign will take place to allow residents and visitors to become familiar with any changes that will be made. Persons without the necessary permits and document are encouraged to regularize their status.
The CIO revealed that there have been breaches, where many persons came to the islands, got the relevant period of stay, and when it expires, they fail to renew their status.
Hughes was appointed to the post on 2nd July, 2018.