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SVG Consul General in Canada warns about immigration fraud

SVG Consul General in Canada warns about immigration fraud

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St Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General in Toronto Steve Phillips is warning Vincentians seeking entry into Canada by fraudulent means.{{more}}

Phillips’ call came after an announcment on Tuesday by Canadian authorities that Vincentians must obtain a visa to enter Canada.

“… You can change your names, change passports, but you can’t change your fingerprints…” Phillips told SEARCHLIGHT during a telephone interview on Wednesday.

The consul general said Canada has been taking steps to heighten security at their borders.

“It is really difficult to come through, knowing that you are not bona fide…,” Phillips said.

He said government authorities have repeatedly warned Vincentians that they can change their names, but once immigration officers are thorough at the point of entry, when a finger print examination is done, authorities would realise who they are.

“A key reason why the [Canadian] Government has imposed visa requirements on St Lucia and St Vincent is unreliable travel documents. In particular, criminals from these countries can legally change their names and acquire new passports. In some instances, people who were removed from Canada as security risks later returned using different passports….,” a release from Citizenship and Immigration Canada said on Tuesday.

Phillips told SEARCHLIGHT that he is aware of some persons who were deported from Canada and returned with a passport bearing a different name.

“There have been several cases where persons have returned to Canada using different names. These are matters that were brought to [our attention] by the Canada Border Services Agency,” he said.

Despite being aware of “several” such cases, Phillips could not give a definite figure as to the number he has come across since he took up the position at the consulate in 2007.

One such case however, was that of Mark John Dublin.

Dublin, 23, was deported from Canada for a second time in May, this year. He was first deported under his legal name, but in December 2011, he obtained a birth certificate and passport to travel to Canada in the name of Franco Roberts — a dead man. When the fraud was detected by local immigration authorities, the SVG consulate was notified. Dublin was deported from Canada and charged with four counts of fraud and deception. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in jail.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT in May, shortly after Dublin returned to St Vincent, Chief Immigration Officer Stanford Hamilton called on persons entrusted with the responsibility of certifying the authenticity of documents of persons applying for St Vincent and the Grenadines birth certificates and passports to take their responsibility more seriously.

He said if the integrity of the St Vincent and the Grenadines passport is to be maintained, it needs the assistance of all concerned, and that every aspect of a false declaration that is supported by a signature helps in some way to make it possible for persons to acquire passports by fraudulent means.

He, however, noted that the Immigration Department has been able to reduce by almost 95 per cent, the number of fraudulent applications, since the implementation of machine readable passports.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves on Wednesday denied that the Canadian government had ever raised with his government any issue about the St Vincent and the Grenadines travel documents.

The diplomatic note issued to the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines by the Canadian High Commission on Wednesday said nothing of the “unreliable travel documents” mentioned in Tuesday’s press release. The diplomatic note gave “the sustained flow of asylum claimants to Canada and a high rate of immigration violations” as the reason the visa exemption was removed.

Gonsalves said on Wednesday he intends to write to the Canadian prime minister about the “inaccuracy” in the press release.(KW)

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