by Lashaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. Timothy Harris has defended a move by the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force to crack down on illegal immigrants in the Federation
Last weekend over 100 immigrants mostly from the Dominican Republic were rounded up by police and immigration officials in East Basseterre and detained until they were able to prove they had the required documents to be released.
Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday Prime Minister Harris indicated that the operation was part of a law enforcement initiative in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Much has been said over the last few days about the immigration initiative that was conducted on Saturday October 22 in East Basseterre,” he said. “I must state categorically that this exercise is part and parcel of the larger law enforcement initiative to bolster law and order in the Federation and minimize criminal activity. The immigration officers, the police and other law enforcement agencies have been addressing all critical national security issues and as such immigration violations would not be and could not be overlooked in this broad law enforcement agenda.”
He further stressed that the exercise came in response to the public’s growing concern of the practices of some of these individuals which include loud music, lewd behavior, Traffic congestion, suspect illegal operation at the bars and possible human trafficking.
“We have had reports, allegations of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a serious international human rights violation and we will never allow our country’s good name to be sullied. Therefore, whenever these allegations are made they must be seriously investigated because they are international consequences,” he declared.
He added that his administration had instituted a 90 day amnesty period from July to October of last year to give a large number of non-nationals an opportunity to regularize their status.
“The 2016 amnesty period resulted in 34 persons taking advantage of that amnesty, 21 were from Guyana and 13 was from Jamaica. It is important to recall that there was an amnesty given in 2014 and in that period a total of 62 people took advantage,” the Prime Minister said.
Dr.Harris continued,””Some of these persons have only been granted provisional entry to attend funerals, to attend weddings, or visit sick relatives. That is what they came purportedly to do and they refuse to voluntary leave the country or seek extensions from the appropriate authorities. The law is the law is the law. As a genuine effort is being made to uphold the law violations of the law would not be tolerated.”
“This means that the majority of the illegal immigrants who were detained by the police and immigration had ample time and opportunity during the last two amnesty periods to have their status legitimized,”
He mentioned some of the nationalities that were detained in the operation.
“Among those arrested by the police are Jamaicans, USA, Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Some 29 of those individuals remain in custody…given that they are their illegally. The individuals in question have overstayed and have been in violation of our immigration laws in some cases as early as 2010,” Dr. Harris said.
He added that some of these persons had only been granted provisional entry to attend family event such as funerals and weddings.
“We are not an unfriendly country. We are a welcoming destination and people are free to come and to stay but it must be done legally and properly. There is no other way to maintain civility, to maintain law and order than to ensure that people come and people are staying and behaving properly in accordance with the law,” he said.
The Prime minister and Minister of National Security continued ,”“In St. Kitts and Nevis, as in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Columbia, USA, Canada, Jamaica, name any country there are consequences for noncompliance with the law. Throughout the world every responsible state pursues an appropriate immigration policy and our state is no different in that regard. ”
The Minister of National Security also stated that there are consequences for not complying with the law of any country.
“You cannot condemn the government for allowing too many immigrants to be in our country and at the same time cry hypocritical tears when illegal immigrants are being processed humanely and in accordance with our laws,” he said.
He continued,””the police and immigration officials were and are upholding the law. They were working to protect our country. The vicious attacks against them by the political agents were unwarranted as they were irresponsible you cannot abrogate.”
He disclosed that 29 individuals are still in police custody.
Also speaking at the press conference Assistant Commissioner of Police Terrance James who was asked what will be done to those who fail to show the necessary documents.
“Up to this morning we had a good citizen to one of the detainees buy a ticket and persons in their communities have been purchasing tickets so that they can travel back to their native country.
“In terms of what will happen to them we are working with the ministry of national security to see what regularization can be done in a short period of time so that we can have them regularized and given extra time in the land.”