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Collaboration key in plugging porous borders - Customs boss

Published:Tuesday | May 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Robert Montague (right), minister of national security, shares a light moment with (from left) Marsha Vassell Gordon, PICA immigration officer; Keresha Caden-Jones, immigration officer; Koenraad Burie, European Union representative; and Raymond McDuffy, trainer at the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, at the workshop yesterday.

Commissioner of Customs Velma Ricketts-Walker has underscored the importance of regional states maintaining strong border security, even as they facilitate the legitimate movement of people and products within and through the Caribbean.

The Customs boss noted that Jamaica's geographical location, which sees it ideally positioned to enjoy significant trade benefits, makes it equally attractive for illicit activities such as drug trafficking and gunrunning. She noted that the challenges are many and complex, and Jamaica should not seek to go it alone.

"Our strength, therefore, will flow from collaboration, so we have to be ahead of the game," Ricketts-Walker told yesterday's opening ceremony for a five-day joint national border security training workshop at the Police Officers' Club in St Andrew.

More than 30 immigration and customs officers, as well as members of the Port Security Corps, are participating in the workshop, which is being funded by the European Union and conducted by trainers from the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency.




National Security Minister Robert Montague, in underscoring the importance of improved training for front-line personnel to inform their response to potential threats to Jamaica's safety and security, offered this advice.

"A balance between security and customer service is indeed critical, and deserves focused attention and ongoing improvements to strengthen our capability ... to confront the challenges of transnational criminal networks, and understanding their modus operandi, while facilitating the cross-border movement of legitimate travellers for business and tourism. These legitimate movements support critical industries which are an integral part of our economic, human social and human development," Montague said.

Emphasising the importance of inter-agency and regional collaboration, as well as coordination, as critical to achieving effective border security, the national security minister highlighted the porosity of Jamaica's territorial waters.

"Jamaica has 497 miles of coastline, and on that, we have 14 legitimate points of entry, and we have recently discovered that we have 145 illegal points on entry. Our borders are porous. We are faced with the problems of guns and drugs and human trafficking," he admitted.

The training workshop is the third in a series being orchestrated by the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) in keeping with its overarching strategy for addressing transnational organised crime. It will be working to accomplish this by building awareness of the new and emerging security threats to the region and articulating a road map for ensuring that the necessary resources, infrastructure and training are provided to mount an adequate response to the challenges.

Speaking with The Gleaner afterwards, trainers Raymond McDuffy and Jane Richards of the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency gave the assurance that the strategies were informed by the expertise of regional agencies and persons familiar with the unique situations of each CARICOM member state. The plan is for the training to be conducting in all 15 CARICOM member states by the end of the calendar year. Trinidad and Tobago, as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines, have already benefited.