Caribbean-wide visas are in the offing
Caribbean-wide visas and biometric
exit checks to exit the United States are both in the offing, according to
tourism industry security experts.
Don Fields, the air service
development manager at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, was speaking at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s
Leadership Strategy Conference in Bridgetown, Barbados.
He told delegates that current
biometrics and advanced passenger information systems will be joined by a
forthcoming biometric system to verify exit from the United States. This will
require fingerprinting when leaving the US.
“When I go to Asia, Europe, South
America, I always have to go through passport control when I leave the country,
so the US is looking at that. There is a great deal of discussion on how this
should be enacted,” he said, conceding that it is a controversial measure.
Finding space at airports for the outward screening was also an issue.
He added that there are a lot of
moving parts involved in safety, security and the passenger experience at
United States airports.
These include customs and border
patrol, transportation security administration, partnership with airlines to
provide advanced passenger information, plus airport facilities that assure
safe and efficient passenger movement and customer service levels.
“In the last couple of years the
increasingly important thing has been airline partners providing passenger
information prior to departure. It has been controversial in some countries,
particularly in Europe, but in the US it has had the advantage [of allowing us
to] identify people who may want to cause harm to America and the Caribbean.
Whilst there might be some concerns about how that activity is performed, I
think the goal is a good one,” said Mr. Fields.
A domestic version of advanced
passenger information called Secure Flight, plus whole body imaging provide
extra levels of security.
Executive director of Caricom
IMPACS, Lynne-Anne Wiliams, said travelling in the region involves going
through the Caricom Border Protection Process. Passenger volume management
systems include pre-screening of passengers, pre-screening of cargo and baggage
and the concept of a single domestic space, which would include a secure
multi-destination visa to expedite the process. This could be available for
Caricom residents in the future.
“We are living in an age, I must
say, of some amount of paranoia, but we sign up for everyone going through the
same security system. I am comfortable travelling in the Caribbean, but when
there are [security checks] that are not required by law, I get a little edgy.
She added that rescreening of
passengers between flights even when they are already airside requires
mechanisms to ensure every passenger is sterile in security terms. To mitigate
and manage risk, passengers in transit need to be checked until it is possible
to standardise and harmonise security at all airports. The Caribbean is a
collection of sovereign states rather than a single federal state, with individual
destinations having more or less demanding checks.
Commissioner Darwin Dotlin of the
Royal Barbados Police Force said the Caribbean is generally safe based on risk
profiling, but there is an important caveat.
“Risks are not static – they
require constant monitoring and review, and the introduction of control
measures. In dealing with threats, you must always develop an appropriate level
of security based on the risks, otherwise you can throw cost considerations
through the window.
“Above all, whatever we do, it
should facilitate the smooth transit of passengers. We can build a fortress
society, but to what end? If it influences the passengers they won’t come to
add value to our economies.”
Mr. Dotlin said that ‘screaming
headlines’ such as the example he put on screen, an article titled Sun, Sea and
Murder, give a false impression of crime and, specifically, murder rates in the
Caribbean, but an analysis of the data brings different results.
“When you compare us to different
regions of the world, the fatality rate is quite low. It’s not just about
dealing with actual crime, but the perception of crime in the region,” he told