Chief Immigration Officer Merclyn Hughes has given the first glimpse into a major change that will be made to the Immigration Department following its eventual separation from the police force.
An enforcement unit or taskforce will be set up and be given several duties, including reducing illegal immigration and human trafficking.
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, a statement from the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service said.
Members of the enforcement unit will conduct standard operations such as intelligence gathering and visits to job sites. Visits are currently undertaken by police officers attached to the Immigration Department.
“We recognize and identify that there are some serious problems that need to be tackled,” Hughes stated, while responding to a question at the Prime Minister’s Monthly Press Conference on Tuesday.
“We are a country that believes in immigration, but do it legally. Pay your taxes, subscribe to Social Security and regularize yourselves, because a lot of people came and they got the relevant stamp and it has expired and it continues to be expired and so we encourage them to regularize themselves.”
Hughes was appointed to the post on July 2. She spent the last two weeks getting familiar with the staff at the Immigration Department, visiting with airline representatives, and security officials at the R. L. Bradshaw International Airport and Port Zante terminal.
The changes for to the department will take time, and Hughes has asked the public to be patient.
“It is a work in progress and persons are going to expect a microwave response. They are going to expect things to happen as you click your finger. It is not going to,” she said.
Hughes explained that a public education campaign would take place to allow residents and visitors to become familiar with any changes to be made.