Migrant smuggling is becoming a bigger threat to regional security, according to some of our local law enforcement officials.
This was one of the key issues addressed during a special sitting of the Post-Cabinet Press Briefing held at the Sir John E. St. Luce Conference Center last Thursday.
There have been several interceptions in the past with individuals trying to leave the island illegally, mainly by boat.
Head of the UNDCP, Colonel Edward Croft said there is always the attempt by individuals to move amongst various countries and to go to areas where they think that the grass is greener.
“I won’t say that there is a very large problem, but I know that there have been several interceptions in the past with individuals attempting to do that. And so, from a law enforcement perspective, we continue to monitor the shores, we continue to monitor the borders, we continue to look at activities that would suggest that nefarious activities are occurring, whether or not it’s about the movement of drugs, contrabands or people”, he said.
Croft greater efforts must be made to ensure that the country’s borders and people remain safe and secure.
“People, guns, and drugs are moving”, added ONDCP Chairman Croft who noted the interconnected pattern of these unlawful activities across the island chain. Due to the nature of this sort of crime, it is sometimes difficult to track movers and their illicit gains.
Meanwhile Chief of Defense Staff, Colonel Telbert Benjamin agrees, recalling that there was an incident early in January where 15 persons were found on a vessel moving from one location to the next.
“There is an uptick based on our regional collaboration and coordination noticed by all of us, but this is for us the second incident that has occurred during the course of the year, where there may be a presence of Antiguans involved in one way or the other.
And Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney said investigations are ongoing to determine the involvement of other Antiguans and Barbudans.
“ So we are not just focusing on the two individuals in Saint Kitts, but also any other players that might be involved in Antigua and Barbuda…The trend of unauthorized movement of people has become noticeable across the Regional Security Systems subregion in countries such as Suriname, Trinidad, and Tobago, and Barbados”.
On February 13, Grenada denied entry to 15 Haitians who were seeking entry after leaving Trinidad and Tobago.
This is of major concern to CARICOM countries which all face the similar challenge of not having enough resources to tackle crime and other security threats.
Antigua and Barbuda, for example, has over 110, 000 square kilometers of maritime space which presents as porous borders since it cannot all be monitored at once due to sheer size.
Rodney said migrant smuggling was one of the main topics at a recently held meeting with regional countries and Interpol in Chile.
The movement of people from South and Central America with many hoping to reach the US-Mexico border destination is a growing migration crisis facing all countries involved.
Local security officials highlighted that developed nations with more resources such as Canada and the United States deal with the same issues and risks including migrant smuggling, human trafficking as well as drug and gun trafficking which could potentially lead to exploitation, gang violence, substance abuse and loss of life in some cases.