Today’s Editorial May 24: System will speed up Immigration

Smile, visitor, you’re about to be on Cayman camera.

Well, actually Immigration’s camera.

An automated system is being put in place at Owen Roberts International Airport that would, among other things, snap a photograph of incoming tourists.

It will be painless and a good way for the Cayman Islands to do even more to help stop global terrorism.

In addition to photos, the automated system will check the authenticity of travel documents and read machine-readable passports.

What the system won’t do is require fingerprints of our guests.

Immigration Chief Franz Manderson told Finance Committee members he and his staff had given serious thought to implementing both photographs and fingerprints, but after talking with other Overseas Territories, decided to stick with photos only.

The United States began fingerprinting and photographing visitors from most countries in January 2004.

It was a controversial move that still hasn’t been completely adopted at all ports of entry.

The US launched the program in an effort to prevent potential terrorists from slipping in through its borders.

The extra measures are another sign of the US trying to find the right balance between freedom and security in a post-11 September world.

We think it’s good that the Immigration Department stopped the identification process at photographs only.

While we see the necessity for the United States to put more stringent measures in place to protect that country’s security, we have to remember that we are a small country where the threat isn’t as high.

But we still must do our part to help protect the world at large.

And it’s not just for global security that Immigration should be putting into place extra security measures.

We know that after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 many people arrived in the Cayman Islands and became lost in the shuffle; so much so that in October it was estimated there were more than 1,500 illegal overstayers in Cayman.

The new system will also help alleviate the massive amounts of paper that get shuffled through Immigration.

The Immigration Department still keeps physical paper files on all work permit holders and applicants, which can create all kinds of problems.

We’re sure the Immigration staff is pleased to know that within three months many of them will be operating in a paperless environment.

Mr. Manderson promised when he took over the helm of Immigration that good, solid change was coming.

So far he’s kept his word and we’re all better off for it.

The new automated system slated for the airport is just one more positive step to improving Immigration and our tourism product.

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