After a successful Second Immigration Ministers Council Meeting in Dominica with her Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) counterparts, Minister for the Public Service, Home Affairs, Labour and Gender Affairs Honourable Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte is back on island, confident that Saint Lucia’s Immigration policies are strongly pointed in the right direction.
The sub-regional meeting this year further elaborated on the themes that surrounded the inaugural meeting, which had been convened virtually in November of 2021.
This year, an in-person council meeting took place on April 13, 2023 at Government State House in Roseau. Honourable Rayburn Blackmoore, Minister for National Security and Legal Affairs of Dominica and incoming Chairperson of the OECS Immigration Ministers Council was the host of the Second Meeting.
Minister Poyotte described the development and implementation of online E/D forms as a key highlight of the meeting, as the sub-regional group aims to strengthen mechanisms for seamless travel throughout the OECS.
The Minister also revealed that the enhancement of Border Security Management Systems was another prime topic on the agenda of the Council for Ministers of Immigration.
“It was a very interesting meeting for Ministers with responsibility for Immigration in the OECS. We discussed where we are now with the issue of advancing the Immigration process in the respective islands. I was present as Minister with responsibility for Home Affairs, and there were representatives from most of the OECS states and the Minister with responsibility for National Security in Dominica assumed the Chair of this body at the meeting in the Commonwealth of Dominica,” she said.
Minister Albert-Poyotte also explained that the level of progress by each member state came under scrutiny. However, Saint Lucia was ready to show slate.
She added, “We looked at the progress the islands have made in different areas and I am pleased to report that Saint Lucia has made great strides in this area. For example, we have our e-passport, which was introduced last year, we have the Border Management System (BMS) and we have the E/D forms where persons can actually complete their Immigration forms online. There was a trial period for about a month and the reports from Immigration here, is that this time has expired and the new system is now fully online.”
The Home Affairs minister also spoke to government’s plans for the further development of the BMS during the upcoming financial year.
“Government has invested heavily in this project and there is an allocation in the budget to pay for the license for the different equipment we are using to operate this system. As minister, I think that Saint Lucia should continue to press ahead, for our own security and safety, although we have Free Movement among the OECS states, but we must not leave our borders open for persons who may have ill -intentions to enter our borders. Therefore, we are working very hard at building greater security measures at our borders to keep Saint Lucia safe.”
Minister Albert-Poyotte disclosed that Member States agreed to the adoption of national and regional actions that will strengthen border security and advance the realization of a seamless Single Domestic Space within the OECS.