Antigua and Barbuda’s Acting Chief Immigration Officer Annette Mark has announced that the government will be introducing an e-visa for immigrants who need visas to enter the twin island.
The Immigration Department will launch the system but no specific date has been given for it to be done.
She said persons will have to apply for a visa to come to Antigua & Barbuda and to facilitate this process the Immigration Department will be launching the e-visa system on the website very shortly. Persons can get online, apply for their visas and the process can move much smoother and faster.
Mark did not indicate whether the level of scrutiny of applications / applicants would be increased as well.
As of July 20, the acting immigration officer said the country had put a stop to the granting of visa waivers.
This comes in the wake of a visa scandal involving Syrians and the U.S. compliant of Syrian and Cuban migrant smuggling and trafficking rings.
After weeks of ignoring public claims by the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) about the smuggling rings, government recently confirmed that, in May this year, the U.S. Embassy had brought the issue to its intention.
It has been alleged that Syrians paid thousands of dollars to get persons to sponsor them to travel to Antigua, so they could travel to U.S. territories through illegal ports.
Currently, U.S. Homeland Security personnel are on the island assisting the local authorities to probe the claims.
A total of 14 Syrians, who were picked up between July 22 and 23, are still in custody and are suspected to be victims of migrant smuggling.
Barbados has recorded a high increase in tourist arrivals during the first half of 2015.
For the first six months of this year, Barbados recorded 303,592 long-stay visitors, the first time the destination has ever topped 300,000 visitors in the January – June period in the 29 years of recording air arrivals tourism statistics.
This also represents a 14.9 percent increase or 37,945 more passenger arrivals over the comparative period in 2014.
The Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., (BTMI), Alvin Jemmot, made the announcement during that organization’s second quarterly press conference for 2015.
The BTMI chairman also noted that visitor-spending was up by five percent though there was a reduction in the average length of stay.
He cited several macro-economic factors including the UK APD adjustments, which took effect during the last quarter; falling unemployment in the USA; and lower oil prices reducing the cost of business and improved travel schedules within the Caribbean region.
The local cruise tourism continued to hold its own during April-June 2015 with preliminary figures showing there were 52 cruise ship arrivals — an increase of six percent in calls and 12 percent in passenger arrivals for the same period in 2014.
The chairman also revealed that Barbados’ accommodation sector is projected to receive new and refurbished plant of 2,300 additional rooms between 2015 and 2019 to the tune of $2 billion.
A Cayman Islands woman has lost $50,000 after sending it to an online conman in Nigeria via a money transfer service, local police said.
Warning residents to be vigilant as there is very little the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service can do to investigate, let alone apprehend internet criminals based in the West African country. The Financial Crimes Unit urged people not to respond to unsolicited emails promising cash.
Police said that the woman who made the report sent the cash in several money transfers over the last 12 months via Western Union to Nigeria.
The woman appears to be have been sucked in by the unsolicited email claiming to be from the American tax authorities telling her she was entitled to a substantial tax rebate, but as part of the scam the conman asked for advance fees before the money could be refunded
Cuba and St. Lucia recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at expanding trade between the two countries. St. Lucia’s Trade Export Promotion Agency (TEP) hopes to introduce quality St. Lucian products to the Cuban market.
Minister of Commerce, business development, investment and consumer affairs, Emme Hippolyte and Roberto Verrier, director of the Centro del Commercio Exterior y la Inversion Extranjer (CEPEC) signed the MOU during the recently held Cuba-Caribbean Business Forum in Santiago, Cuba.
The MOU cements the ongoing relationship between TEP and CEPEC to expand trade between the two countries.
“The government of St. Lucia hopes that this relationship will deepen existing bilateral relations and also examine future trade opportunities to be pursed between St. Lucia and Cuba,” Hippolyte said.
The forum was hosted by the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and the local government authorities of Santiago de Cuba to mark the 500th anniversary of the city.
The Grenadian government is moving to restore its Consulate Service in New York.
In the face of mounting pressure among some Grenadians in New York, the ruling New National Party (PNP) administration in St George’s has been forced to make concessions on the closure of the Consulate Office in the Big Apple.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen said the consular service will resume in New York “in the shortest possible time.”
Modeste-Curwen told a local radio station that government has already identified someone to become the new consul general and was engaged in discussions with the US State Department on accreditation for the diplomat.
Foreign Minister Modeste-Curwen charged that the Mitchell-led government did not create the problem but inherited it from the previous Congress administration.
Former banker Allen McGuire was the last accredited Consul General of Grenada in New York.
By the end of the year, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JFC) could start wearing body cameras when they are deployed to front-line duties.
That is according to National Security Minister Peter Bunting, who revealed recently that the United States has acquired nearly 400 body cameras that will be turned over to the Jamaican government later this year.
“They have gone through their procurement process, and the order has been placed, so it’s just a matter of delivery, training and putting the infrastructure in place,” Bunting said.
Bunting’s last disclosure comes more than 18 months after he first announced plans to have some members of the JFC fitted with body cameras,
Do not look to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to any support, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Britain’s Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal, who is seeking regional backing as Dominica’s nominee for the position of Commonwealth secretary general, the Barbados Sun reported.
Gonsalves reportedly wrote to Scotland, a sitting member of Britain’s House of Lords, reaffirming his country’s position, after indicating during the closed talks at the recent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government conference in Barbados that she would not have his support.
“Despite your impressive scholastic and professional accomplishments, including holding public offices in Britain, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines considers it improper and unacceptable for a member of any parliament, in your case the House of Lords, even on extended leave, to serve as the same time as secretary general of the Commonwealth. The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines insists that such a person should demit membership of that parliament in order to serve as secretary general of the Commonwealth. Since you are unwilling or unable to demit, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines cannot afford serious consideration to your candidacy,” Gonsalves wrote.
Commonwealth Caribbean governments have been criticized for their failure to unite behind one candidate for the secretary general post, with a small number of them, including Barbados, supporting Scotland, while the majority is understood to support Antigua and Barbuda’s nominee, Sir Ronald Sanders.
The controversial bank act which seeks to reform the sub-regional’s banking sector and give more regulatory power to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) was passed in the St. Kitts parliament recently after two days of debate.
The new banking act provides for the regulation and supervision of banking business, the establishment of a single banking space, the ownership structures for licensed financial institutions, the licensing of financial holding companies, and among other financial institutions and for incidental and regulated matters.
The bill is divided into 14 parts.
Prime Minister Timothy Harris, in supporting the legislation, underscored the importance of the banking system to the financial health of the Eastern Caribbean.
The act has already been passed in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member states of Antigua, and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St. Lucia and Dominica.
The United States Department has downgraded Trinidad and Tobago to a low grade to a Tier 2 Watch list in its Trafficking in Persons Report, which was recently released.
The report revealed that local police and immigration officers are involved in a sex trafficking ring involving Venezuelan, Colombia and Santo Domingo women by providing protection for the operation and regularizing their immigration status.
The government was also cited for not effectively allocating funding and resources to the non-government organizations (NGOs) and service providers tasked with helping victims.
The Tier 2 Watch List designation means that T&T does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
In its latest report, Trinidad and Tobago was described as “a destination, transit, and possible source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.”
The annual report, which analyzes trafficking in 186 countries, ranks them on how effectively they fight the problem, found that economic migrants who lack legal status may be exposed to various exploitation and abuse indicative of trafficking.
— compiled by Azad Ali