Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 26, 2016 (SKNIS): Last Saturday’s immigration initiative that saw scores of persons being detained in order to enquire about, and confirm their legal status, has been described by the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, as part of larger efforts to bolster law and order in St. Kitts and Nevis, while he called on illegal immigrants to regularize their status.

Almost 100 nationals of Jamaica, the United States, Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic were detained by police and immigration officials in the October 22 exercise which was a response to increasing concerns voiced by residents. These concerns resulted in a series of reports to police that included violations to the Noise Abatement Act, lewd behavior, traffic congestion, suspected illegal operations at bars, fighting, and allegations of human trafficking.

“The law is the law is the law,” Prime Minister Harris said, at his monthly press conference on Wednesday (October 26). “… Violations of our laws will not be tolerated.”

Twenty-nine of the immigrants that were detained are reportedly still in custody. The minister of national security said that the individuals in question “have overstayed”, some as far back as 2010. Some of the detainees were only granted provisional entry to attend funerals, weddings, or to visit sick relatives, but used the opportunity to overstay.

“That is what they came purportedly to do and they refused to voluntarily leave the country or seek extensions from the appropriate authorities,” Dr. Harris stated.

In 2014, and again in 2015, amnesty was granted for non-nationals, who were in St. Kitts and Nevis illegally, to regularize their status. The prime minister reported that a total of 96 persons took advantage of the two amnesty periods. Thirteen were from the Dominican Republic and the remaining 83 were from CARICOM-member states.

“This means that the majority of the illegal immigrants who were detained by the police and immigration had ample time and opportunity during the last two amnesty periods to have their status legitimized,” Dr. Harris said. “In St. Kitts and Nevis, as in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Columbia, USA, Canada, Jamaica, name any country … there are consequences for noncompliance with the law. Throughout the world every responsible state pursues an appropriate immigration policy and our state is no different in that regard.”

Prime Minister Harris added that the authorities were upholding the law and protecting the citizenry. He thanked the individuals who contacted law enforcement to report the various breaches of law that were taking place. Dr. Harris reassured that St. Kitts and Nevis remains open to receive legitimate visitors and migrants.

“We are not an unfriendly country. We are a welcoming destination and people are free to come and to stay but it must be done legally and properly,” he said. “There is no other way to maintain civility, to maintain law and order than to ensure that people come and people are staying and behaving properly in accordance with the law.”