Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rough landing

THAT members of the Immigration Department of the Ministry of National Security stationed at Piarco International Airport decided to boycott their jobs on Sunday was highly irresponsible and reprehensible.

What grievances the immigration officers have with their employers remain unknown. There has been no agitation on their part, as far as citizens of the country have been made aware.

Negotiating by way of attempting to hold the authorities to ransom is a long-outmoded means of action in this modern era of industrial relations, as those officers are fully aware.

But as bad as that is, when such action has as its most punitive effect, the inconvenience of hundreds of unsuspecting, unconnected citizens and visitors to our shores, this callousness is multiplied many times over.

With six flights into Piarco airport at one point on Sunday afternoon, one frustrated national arriving home estimated that there were more than 1,000 persons in the visitors' line waiting to be processed and admitted for their period of stay in the country.

It would have been a horrible experience for first-time visitors, with the impressions created in the process leading to the worst possible consequences regarding their decisions about returning here.

Adding insult to an already nasty injury in the minds of those frustrated and tired travellers simply wanting to effectively conclude their journeys by clearing Immigration and Customs, not enough security was on hand to prevent those so inclined from recording these scenes on their cellphones, which is prohibited.

But with the pile-up resulting from the appalling presence of just two immigration officers on duty, there was no control to be exercised against those passengers sufficiently incensed to record their horrible experiences.

What is even more galling going forward from this expression of anarchy by officers in an arm of the country's national security apparatus, is that no one is expected to be held accountable.

Some passengers reported spending more than three hours waiting in line to have their passports examined, before moving on to collect their luggage, and clear Customs before leaving the airport.

Whatever the complement of officers who would have been assigned duty at the arrival hall yesterday, it could not be that illness would have been so pervasive as to render just two officers available for such duty.

At what point would those officers reporting sick, have informed their seniors of their unavailability for work? What action did those senior officers proceed to take, with the presumed foresight of the chaos this mass action would have caused?

These are just a couple of the questions, the answers to which the Chief Immigration Officer must assume as a responsibility to provide to an aggravated public.

Citizens must also be made aware of what, if any, are the legitimate disputes in which these officers are engaged with their employer, even as we insist this is by no means the way to go about agitating for their redress.