Court challenge looms for Barbados fingerprinting

Court challenge looms for Barbados fingerprinting|Court challenge looms for Barbados fingerprinting
Photo by George Alleyne|Photo by George Alleyne

The Barbados Government’s plan to fingerprint nationals on entry and departure from the island appears set to be challenged in court before the intended April 01 implementation date.

The Immigration Biometrics Regulations require all persons passing through the island’s ports be fingerprinted, but some Barbadians have objected to this procedure being applied to them in their own country, with the latest public objector, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, threatening court action.

Mottley told parliament during debate earlier this week on the national estimates of revenue and expenditure, in which almost Bar$3 million (Bar$2 = US$ .50) was proposed to support the fingerprinting, that she has a team of fellow lawyers ready to launch into battle with the Prime Minister Freundel Stuart administration over the issue.

Compulsory fingerprinting is the first measure that Government said it plans implementing to keep it in line with international requirements for ports of entry and departure, and is to be followed by full face scans later this year.

But while Mottley and a number of high profile Barbadians have objected to being subject to fingerprints or any scan when leaving or entering the island, Prime Minister Stuart said, also during the same debate on estimates earlier this week, that Barbadians may be among the culprits that the regulations are intended to catch.

He cited a case of a Barbadian who was deported back to the island from Canada, but repeatedly manipulated the local system to obtain new identities and returned to Canada on multiple occasions.

Stuart told parliament, the deported man, “went and did a change of name; got a birth certificate to correspond to it; got an ID card to correspond to it; and went and got a passport and left Barbados again under a new name to go back to that country.

“Sent back again, he came back for another change of name, another birth certificate, another ID card, another passport again.”

Stuart said a number of Caribbean nationals deported from Barbados were also abusing their country’s system to return to Barbados, but pointed out that implementation of the fingerprinting system is so far a foolproof security option against these scams.

“You can change your name as much as you like. You can’t change your fingerprints though,” he said.

Opposition Leader and a former attorney general, Mottley, however pointed out that the Immigration Biometrics Regulations were made under a section of the Immigration Act that empowers the relevant government minister to make regulations concerning the entry of suspicious people into the island.

But, she asked, “How could a Bajan be on suspicion of entering inappropriately to their own country?”.

She further questioned what happens when a Barbadian refuses to be fingerprinted. “Where are you going to deport them to?” and added, “ You can’t deport your citizens. So if you can’t deport them, you then criminalize your citizens”.

She contended that the regulations will make criminals of many Barbadians who may be concerned about breach of privacy of their fingerprints.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Photo by George Alleyne