The Deputy Premier and Minister of Border Control and Employment, Honourable Sean R. Astwood, successfully took the Immigration Amendment Bill 2017 through its second and third readings when the House of Assembly resumed this morning with its ninth meeting to allow the introduction of an Advance Passenger Information System in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), once implemented, will capture passengers’ biographic data and travel details which will be shared with Border Control Officials prior to the arrival of passengers in the TCI.
This electronic database of passenger details, which will be shared among cooperating countries of the United Kingdom, the United States and members of the Caribbean Community CARICOM, is an undertaking in collaboration with the Joint Regional Communications Center JRCC, a sub agency of CARICOM IMPACS and the United States Government.
The benefits of APIS will be the improvement in crime perception and detection, and deterrence to engagement in the smuggling of drugs, humans, weapons and other contraband, thereby making the borders of the TCI safer while improving the overall passenger experience by reducing congestion and delays at the ports.
During his delivery in the House of Assembly, the Deputy Premier noted:
"Mr. Speaker, thanks to globalization and the advancement in communication we now live in a world that, in essence has shrunk, and one that has led to one global integrated community without boundaries. And Mr. Speaker, while there is much to be gained from the exposure to world markets, trade and commerce, such as a thriving and healthy tourism industry, as a small island developing state we cannot continue to ignore the increased exposure to threats that this growth brings and we cannot return to a day and time when we had very little exposure to threat, nor should we want to, as our days of less exposure and less threat were also our days of less success as a country and as a people."
"Instead Mr. Speaker, small island developing states, like our beloved Turks and Caicos Islands, must find the balance to embrace the opportunities of globalization and a shrunken world, while capitalizing on the power of an integrated world community to mitigate against the inherent threats that comes with it."
The Deputy Premier added:
"Mr. Speaker, there is also the threat of international terrorism, that is not only a concern for Border Control, it should also be of concern to the Airports Authority as well as our Airline Carriers. Mr. Speaker, not only has security inspections intensified in light of these risks but one has to wonder if there is also the need to reinstate border control checks on departure, which will create further delays in the check-in process as we have already seen in the arrivals and entering of passengers."
"Mr. Speaker, the threat of drug trafficking, passenger and gun smuggling along with that of other illegal contraband also present increased compliance risks that require greater vigilance and intensified inspections by both Border Control and Customs Department."
"Mr. Speaker, together these risks have brought greater demands on an already stretched human resource and ultimately lowers the quality of the passenger experience on arrival and departure at our ports and this bill, once passed by this honourable House will facilitate the implementation of an Advance Passenger Information System that will allow us to systematically address the concerns and risks that I have outlined above."
The Immigration Amendment Bill 2017, which also includes provisions for the streamlining of the process for intransit passengers, was tabled for its first reading at the July meeting of the House of Assembly and will come in to force on a day as consented to by His Excellency the Governor, Dr. John Freeman, having been published in the Gazette.