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Law in breach of Caricom treaty, says Imbert

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Opposition MP Colm Imbert yesterday claimed the Government presented new legislation to allow for every single visitor to this country, including Caricom nationals and deportees, to be fingerprinted. Speaking in the debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Administration of Justice) Bill, 2014, Imbert said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan made no mention of that controversial provision while presenting the bill. 



“You didn’t tell the Parliament that you are now going to fingerprint every single visitor to T&T,” Imbert told Ramlogan. He also said Ramlogan did not outline the policy behind the measure to fingerprint visitors from Asia, Europe, South America and the Caribbean and the legislation made no distinction between a criminal and a law-abiding visitor. The Diego Martin North East MP said it was important to make a distinction in the legislation, since a citizen can be deported for several reasons and not only crime.


“There are all sorts of reasons why people get deported and they are not criminal offences,” Imbert said. “You want to fingerprint everybody from Barbados, St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname, Antigua. You want to insist that Caricom citizens be fingerprinted on arrival at Piarco, but not Trinidadians,” Imbert told legislators. He said the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas would be breached if the bill went ahead, as all Caricom nationals are guaranteed equal treatment under the said treaty.


Insisting that only criminal offenders should be fingerprinted and not law-abiding citizens, Imbert suggested that the legislation should be amended to exempt nationals from countries with which T&T has a treaty and reciprocal agreements. 



Imbert questioned whether the international community would agree for their citizens to be fingerprinted on arrival in T&T, saying that will never happen. He suggested that the legislation be delayed to allow for consideration of all its provisions, and insisted that if this was not done the legislation would be tested in the Caribbean Court of Justice. 



He suggested the visa reciprocity agreement with the EU will also not happen if the law was passed. Imbert said the Government was “just bull-headed,” adding if the measure was approved millions of visitors would have to be fingerprinted and there was inadequate infrastructure for it to be done efficiently. The bill requires a special three-fifths majority vote to be passed.


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