Anti-Smuggling Of Migrants Bill, 2024, Successfully Passed In Federal Parliament

AG Wilkin.
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Basseterre, St. Kitts – The Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2024, was successfully passed in the Federal Parliament in St. Kitts and Nevis on Friday, June 14, 2024. The Bill, championed by Attorney General, the Honourable Garth Wilkin, represents a robust response to the growing issue of migrant smuggling within the Federation’s territorial waters.

AG Wilkin.

The legislation aims to deter the smuggling of migrants into St. Kitts and Nevis and aligns national laws with the international Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Attorney General Wilkin said that over the past five years, St. Kitts and Nevis has witnessed a concerning rise in smuggling incidents, predominantly involving Haitian nationals and Cameroonians. These individuals, often transported under perilous conditions, have faced grave dangers, including life-threatening voyages and subsequent detention under distressing circumstances.

“We have had four incidents in less than a year where migrants were smuggled out of Dominica and Antigua, ending up on our shores. This Bill is crucial to protect our borders and uphold the safety and dignity of all individuals within our jurisdiction,” AG Wilkin said while highlighting the urgency of the matter.

He added that the existing legislation proved insufficient to address these challenges, prompting his office to take decisive action. In September 2023, an emergency meeting of the OECS Legal Affairs Committee was convened to foster regional cooperation and develop a model law to combat migrant smuggling. The meeting underscored the shared experiences of OECS territories and the need for harmonised anti-smuggling legislation.

“It is imperative that OECS member states enact stricter laws and enhance collaboration among law enforcement agencies. This Bill not only penalises those directly involved in smuggling, but also addresses the broader network supporting these illegal activities,” AG Wilkin emphasised.

The Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2024, introduces comprehensive measures to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants, protect their rights, and promote international cooperation. The legislation establishes the Agency for the Prevention and Countering of the Smuggling of Migrants, tasked with coordinating policy formulation, monitoring immigration patterns, and advising the government on related issues. The Bill also outlines severe penalties for those involved in smuggling activities, ensuring that justice is served and deterrence is achieved.

“This legislation sends a strong message that human smuggling will not be tolerated in St. Kitts and Nevis. By imposing harsher penalties and enhancing support for smuggled migrants, we aim to uphold the values of compassion, justice, and human dignity that our nation holds dear,” AG Wilkin further elaborated.

He added that the Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2024, marks a pivotal step in safeguarding the Federation’s borders and protecting the lives of vulnerable individuals. The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis remains committed to upholding the rule of law and fostering regional cooperation to combat the scourge of human smuggling.

The Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2024, had its first reading on February 22, 2024 .

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