Illegal entry into T&T is being made more difficult as the Government steps up border security on land and sea.
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon yesterday confirmed moves to step up border security following Wednesday's exercise by police and immigration in which 30 people were questioned and 24 detained.
During the exercise, authorities checking vehicles along the Priority Bus Route asked commuters for identification. The 24 people who were detained were placed at the Detention Centre.
The National Security Ministry yesterday confirmed that the exercise was the latest phase of operations to deal with illegal immigrants. It said those detained in Wednesday's exercise included four Jamaicans, one Dominican Republic national, two Cubans, one Grenadian, ten Guyanese, one Nigerian, three Chinese, one Vincentian and one person from Sierra Leone.
In February 2015, then National Security Minister Gary Griffith, in announcing a "crackdown on illegals," estimated that there were 110,000 illegal immigrants from 16 countries living in T&T.
He said they would have been given the opportunity to regularise their status and if non-compliant would be located and returned to their homeland. He added that there were many illegal immigrants in T&T contributing heavily to crime and gang activity and if these undesirables were removed it would have a positive impact on the anti-crime fight.
Yesterday, Dillon said maritime borders–prime points for illegal entry–were being tightened, as were entry points on land in his government's heightened efforts to deal with crime and gang warfare.
Dillon is planning visits to various areas and agencies in coming weeks to reinforce those plans.
Dillon said he would visit the Detention Centre soon since it was in a "terrible" state.
He said he has called for certain rearrangements to be done at the centre and for the processes regarding Caricom nationals to be expedited when such individuals have to be returned to their homeland.
He said discussions had been held with the Jamaican high commissioner on such matters.
The minister said halting illegal access to T&T was also geared towards clamping down on foreign culprits involved in terrorist activities entering T&T.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, meanwhile, told the T&T Guardian that the Government was using a multi-pronged approach to dealing with returning T&T-born terrorist fighters–those who had served with ISIS in the Middle East–and this would involve operationalising existing law plus co-operation with international parties.
That is currently being finalised at various levels of the Government.
"A special Anti-Terrorism Unit has also been established in the Attorney General's office to handle such matters," Al-Rawi said.
"We've retooled arrangements which had existed in the AG's office, but hadn't been used. The past administration, which had co-sponsored the United Nations anti-terrorism resolution, however, didn't operationalise what they were doing."
Al-Rawi also said authorities who mounted a surprise search in the Port-of-Spain prison between Wednesday night and early Thursday morning found 28 new high-tech cell phones.