Basseterre, St. Kitts, July 18, 2018 (SKNIS): Chief Immigration Officer, Merclyn Hughes, has given the public a first glimpse into a major change that will be made to the Immigration Department following its eventual separation from the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force.


It will come in the form of the creation of an enforcement unit or taskforce that will be charged with a number of duties including reducing illegal immigration and human trafficking. While there is no clear evidence that human trafficking is an issue in St. Kitts and Nevis, the officers will remain vigilant for any occurrences. The members will conduct standard operations such as intelligence gathering and visits to job sites – a common practice for immigration officials in countries around the world. The visits are currently undertaken by police officers attached to the Immigration Department.


“We recognize and identify that there are some serious problems that need to be tackled, Ms. Hughes stated, while responding to a question posed by the media at the Prime Minister’s Monthly Press Conference held on Tuesday, July 17.


The chief immigration officer added that “we are a country that believes in immigration, but do it legally. Pay your taxes, subscribe to Social Security and regularize yourselves because a lot of people came and they got the relevant stamp and it has expired and it continues to be expired and so we encourage them to regularize themselves.”


Ms. Hughes was appointed to the post on July 02, 2018. She spent the last two weeks getting familiar with the staff at the Immigration Department, visiting with airline representatives, and security officials at the R. L. Bradshaw International Airport and Port Zante terminal. Observing and learning about procedures at the department have also been taking place.


The changes for to the department will take time and the public is asked to be patient.


“It is a work in progress and persons are going to expect a microwave response. They are going to expect things to happen as you click your finger. It is not going to,” she said.


However, Ms. Hughes explained that a public education campaign will take place to allow residents and visitors to become familiar with any changes that will be made. Persons without the necessary permits and document are encouraged to regularize their status.