Barbadian immigration officers have faced an increasing number of threats, both on and off the job, since a dispute erupted last week between Barbados and Jamaica, reports out of that Caribbean island say.
According to a report in Barbados Today, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Roslyn Smith, says the organisation had received reports of death threats to immigration officers via telephone, while on their jobs and some officers were now operating in an environment of fear that could not continue. The union officials has called for a speedy resolution to the issue, which stemmed from an accusation by Jamaican citizen, Shanique Myrie, that she was assaulted by a Barbadian immigration officer at the Grantley Adams International Airport on March 14, before being denied entry to the country.
“We are calling on the relevant authorities involved to treat this as a very serious issue and come to an amicable solution in as quick a time as is possible because we cannot have our officers operating in an environment of fear,” said Smith.
Her comments were in response to reports to Barbados TODAY by sources within the Immigration Department that workers were being verbally threatened while on the job, and in at least one instance while walking the street.
A source said that officers, particularly on the night shift at the Grantley Adams International Airport, had received calls from persons “with accents” threatening to kill one of the officers.
The source said following the threat, a meeting was held among officers who were then instructed to walk in groups and not to wear their epaulets and belts on the street as a precautionary measure.
Another source reported that officers who park in the general access parking lot had also expressed concern about their safety and security, along with others who take public transportation, especially on the night shift.
Reports also surfaces yesterday of an officer leaving home with her daughter and being accosted by a non-national who shouted an obscenity at her as she passed by.
An officer stated: “The officers are upset because of the accusation, because immigration officers do not search people. Any luggage searches are done by customs and cavity searches are done at the QEH, not the airport.”
Smith said the union had been made aware of threats but the issue was that they could not verify whether the calls were made locally or overseas.
“We are concerned because if the officers are under unnecessary stress because they have to be fearful going to and coming from work then it stands that they will not perform properly,” said the union official.
Workers who were fearful to go to work, she maintained, held implications for the smooth operations at the airport as well.
“We need the agencies to come to a quick resolution so the workers can feel safe. If it drags on then the workers will ask us to intervene. No one wants to work in fearful conditions.
“In the meantime, we will continue monitoring and if needs be we will step in to ensure that the workers are safe,” Smith stressed.
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