The former national security minister of Trinidad & Tobago has shared that the government loses half billion dollars every year for having to upkeep the over 20,000 undocumented Jamaicans that burden the country. He says that on this account, the Keith Rowley administration must not be intimidated by “an foreign political party” when just trying to safeguard its security and economic resources.
Griffith’s comments were made following criticisms by Jamaica and calls for a boycott of Trinidadian products, after Piarco International Airport Immigration officers turned back 12 Jamaicans last month. The Minister of Foreign Affairs for Trinidad and Tobago, Dennis Moses, explained that the barring of the Jamaicans on the 21st of March was done because they were likely to become a charge on the public wallet. Jamaica’s Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, Anthony Hylton, nevertheless urged the Andrew Holness-led government to take the matter before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Carrying on with his assertions, Griffiths shared that many Jamaicans would take advantage of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) free movement regime and refuse to leave the country after gaining entry. He said that they would then end up benefiting from state resources and getting jobs, and even contribute to the crime problem in Trinidad and Tobago.
“It is indeed alarming that the Jamaican Opposition would question the legitimate actions by our Immigration officers as they attempt daily to do their jobs, after being abused constantly by a few Jamaican nationals who attempt to enter our country without the appropriate requirements, and documentation,” he said in a statement on Friday. “It is because of this, that there are over 20,000 Jamaican Nationals who have done just that, by using the CSME angle to enter for six months, but then refuse to leave after that six-month period…These 20,000 Jamaicans alone [are] costing the State over TT$500 million (US$75.4 million) per annum in loss of State revenue.”
Griffith said that money is lost where the illegal Jamaican immigrants get full use of dadquarters resources such as education, healthcare and other social service although they pay no taxes; some turn to a life of crime for having no job; those who work are abused by their employers and paid below the minimum wage because they are in the country illegally, and that just makes it harder for bona fide TT citizens to become employed.
The former national security minister said, “the Jamaican Opposition now challenges the law of our country, because of the recent protest by a few Jamaican nationals because they were denied entry to our country, which is simply a regurgitation of a situation where some feel that our Immigration officers are obliged to allow every Jamaican into our country at all times. Nothing is further from the truth, as with each case the officers have provided sufficient and legitimate grounds for the entry denial. Our country has always welcomed all foreign nationals if they adhere to what is required, with less than three percent of Jamaican nationals being denied entry.”
Highlighting that people trying to enter Trinidad and Tobago can be denied entry under Section 8 (1) (h) of the Immigration Act, if they are deemed as a threat to national security or may be a liability to the public purse; Griffith argued that the twin-island republic was “too relaxed on the latter”. He said that certain CARICOM residents abuse the automatic six-month stay rule.
“It is not coincidental that the escalation in serious crime in our country has escalated at the same period when this CSME window of opportunity came into effect. There are many such persons from CARICOM who come here, not knowing where they are going to live, or work, but expect automatic entry. The response of some of these persons is alarming, as this is not the first time that a few Jamaican nationals have used this same nonsense of boycotting Trinidad products because our Immigration officers are doing their job. Simply put, they are totally out of place,” Griffith pointed out.
“It must also be noted that many other territories undertake a similar practice, and quite rightly so, including the United States. However, you hardly hear similar loud protestations and calls for trade boycotts when dozens of citizens form certain Caribbean countries are denied entry daily. In fact, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago at times are also denied entry to Jamaica, as is their right, and we would be totally out of place to speak about boycotting Jamaica products because their Immigration officers were doing their job.”
Griffiths said that instead of facing scrutiny, the Immigration officers of Trinidad and Tobago should be applauded for their efforts in preventing undesirables from entering the country. He said that these officers have to deal with Jamaicans who: provide conflicting information on the reasons for their visit, with their stories not being corroborated by their intended hosts; are hosted by other Jamaican nationals in the country with illegal visitor status; have insufficient funds to support the length of their intended stay in the country; rip up Immigration forms; do not know where they are staying, or working; and lie about their intended address or potential employer.
“The Immigration officers need to feel as if they are being supported for doing what needs to be done, as in many of these circumstances, after getting the reports, there are many solid reasons why they were denied entry, and failed to adhere to the requirements as set out in our Immigration Act…” he said.
In closing, he warned that if Immigration officers are not allowed to do their jobs, the current “disaster” of undocumented immigrants could worsen significantly.