Federal Parliament Of St. Kitts And Nevis Passes Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2024

Attorney General Wilkin.
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Basseterre, St. Kitts –  In a concerted effort to strengthen the nation’s immigration laws, the Federal Parliament has successfully passed the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2024. This significant legislation, moved through Parliament by Attorney General, the Honourable Garth Wilkin, complements the recently passed Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2024, and aims to deter the shielding, harbouring, or transportation of smuggled migrants into St Kitts and Nevis.

Attorney General Wilkin.

Attorney General Wilkin said that over the past five years, St Kitts and Nevis has experienced a troubling rise in incidents involving smuggled migrants. These individuals have often been intercepted in the Federation’s waters under perilous conditions, raising serious concerns about the adequacy of existing laws to address such violations. The notable increase in smuggling-related incidents underscored the necessity for a critical review and strengthening of the country’s immigration laws to effectively deter and prosecute those involved in these illegal activities.

The Immigration Act, Cap. 6.02, previously imposed penalties on individuals who smuggle, conceal, harbour, or shield migrants from detection. The Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2024, proposes substantial increases in fines and imprisonment terms for these offences. For concealment offences, the penalties have been raised from a fine not exceeding $50,000 and a maximum imprisonment term of three years to a fine not exceeding $100,000 and a maximum imprisonment term of five years. For transportation offences, the penalties have been increased from a fine not exceeding $100,000 and a maximum imprisonment term of five years to a fine not exceeding $200,000 and a maximum imprisonment term of seven years.

Additionally, the Bill defines “financial or other material benefit” to include any type of financial or non-financial inducement, payment, bribe, reward, advantage, privilege, or service, including sexual or other services. This definition aims to close loopholes and ensure comprehensive prosecution of those benefiting from smuggling activities.

Attorney General Wilkin emphasised the importance of these legislative changes.

“By aligning the penalties with those in the Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2024, we are sending a clear message that St. Kitts and Nevis will not tolerate human smuggling or any ancillary activities. These amendments are crucial in protecting the integrity of our immigration system and ensuring the safety and dignity of all individuals within our borders,” said the attorney general.

The Bill underwent extensive consultations with key stakeholders, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, Comptroller of Customs, Chief Immigration Officer, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Commissioner of Police, White Collar Crime Unit, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

First tabled on February 22, 2024, the Bill’s passage marks a significant step forward in the Federation’s ongoing efforts to combat human smuggling and uphold the rule of law.

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