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Government defends SVG passport and how it is issued

Government defends SVG passport and how it is issued

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The government has defended the integrity of the St Vincent and the Grenadines passport and how it is issued, in the face of claims by a woman that her nephew paid an immigration official to issue a passport in the name of a dead person.{{more}}

“There are checks and balances built into our passport system…” Godfred Pompey, permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday.

SEARCHLIGHT had asked the senior public servant to comment on a caller to Bert Francois’ “Current Affairs” programme on NICE Radio Tuesday night, who said her nephew had paid an immigration official $300 to issue a passport in a dead man’s name.

The woman, who did not identify herself, said she was willing to name the immigration officer, but Francois asked her not to do so on the programme.

Pompey told SEARCHLIGHT he had not heard the woman’s comment, but added, “… you have to understand the system (through which passports are issued) to appreciate the checks and balances.

“… even though one officer is being paid, allegedly, there are three, four different layers that a passport must go through before they are approved.”

Asked to elaborate on the system, Pompey said “I can’t discuss security matters of that nature with anyone.

“But one passport or immigration officer cannot facilitate anybody. There are too many checks and balances built into the system.

“No one officer can process a passport to finality. And for someone to get a passport in one day, it has to be an emergency.”

The woman had said the immigration official issued the passport one day after her nephew provided the name of the deceased man.

“I ain’t buy what the prisoner is saying,” Pompey said.

“He is relaxing at Belle Isle (Correctional Facility) now, so I guess he is paying for his deed.

“He went to court, he never made mention of the officer. That was the ideal time, so the authorities could deal with the officer.

“People in the heat of the moment will say anything to discredit the system, but I am comfortable that we — it’s not a hundred per cent foolproof, but its difficult for one officer to collude with somebody outside to get a passport. I can verify that,” Pompey said.

The woman did not identify her nephew, but said he was in prison.

The court on Monday denied Mark John Dublin’s appeal of the three-year jail sentence Chief Magistrate Sonya Young imposed on him in May, after he pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and deception.

Dublin was deported from Canada on May 9, after travelling there, using a passport in the name of Franco Roberts, who died in 2007.

Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC), in a press release announcing the visa requirement least week Tuesday, said “unreliable travel documents” was “a key reason” why Canada imposed visas on St Lucia and St Vincent.

The release further said “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,” the Canadian communique further stated.

As he told a press conference of the visa requirement last week, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves defended the nation’s passport.

He noted that a Vincentian passport will contain all names, previous and existing, of a person who legally changes their name.

Gonsalves, who is Minister of National Security, noted that his government, which came to office in 2001, had introduced machine-readable passports.

“So that when you present it, it don’t look like some flimsy thing,” he said. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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