National security will be strengthened once the territory’s Immigration laws are amended to give the portfolio minister powers to permit prohibited persons into the territory.
This is the conviction of Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley who argued that the amendment brings increased oversight to important national security matters.
“The minister will share that power with the Chief Immigration Officer because with issues so big at a national security level, I figure the minister should be involved with that decision. Right now, he (the Chief Immigration Officer) can make a decision without consulting me or any minister. So, all we’re trying to do is add an extra layer of security in those kinds of decisions,” Wheatley said.
He also cleared the air in relation to questions of whether the amendment was prompted because of international recording artiste Buju Banton, who was granted ‘special permission’ to land in the territory for his upcoming show.
“Whether he was coming or not, we would have done this amendment because we figured that it was too important to be left at the Chief Immigration Officer level only,” Wheatley told BVI News.
The legislator further said it was merely a coincidence the amendment will be made in close proximity to the artiste’s arrival.
Wheatley said: “We all know about Buju Banton because he is a big superstar but other folks also come here with police records … For example, Nelson Mandela came to BVI once. He also has a record but he was allowed to land. But because no one knew about him being here, it wasn’t a major thing.”
And in explaining the process a prohibited person must follow to gain access to the territory, Wheatley said: “They apply for permission to land and the letter is issued to Immigration to permit them to land under certain conditions — the length of time they are allowed to stay, places he or she is allowed to go, etcetera.”
The amendment is set to be passed in the House of Assembly on Friday, May 17.
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