Fitzgerald Hinds

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, centre, fields a question during yesterday’s news conference at the ministry’s headquarters on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. Flanking him are Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, right, and Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel. -Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

NATIONAL security forces will be implementing strong measures to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

This as National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds confirmed yesterday that an illegal immigrant was the first diagnosed case of the Brazilian variant (PI) of Covid-19 in Trinidad and Tobago.

There are now 15 such cases in the country.

Speaking at a news conference at the ministry, Hinds said in response to being asked whether he can categorically say it was not an illegal immigrant: “From the general information I have.. I think that it was from an illegal immigrant.”

Hinds announced that 15 beaches across the country are to be monitored to crack down on the influx of immigrants.

“I have a list of 15 beaches that have become the subject of the professionals’ interest based on the intelligence that they been working on within recent times, but I will not be able to give the names, due to security reasons.

“Bearing in mind that there are many other possible ports of entry within our island state, and given our limited resources, the intelligence is suggesting that these are the areas for the time being that should be in focus,” Hinds said.

Hinds indicated that two Cape class vessels negotiated with the Australian government are expected very soon, as the existing vessels have outlived their usefulness.

“The Prime Minister was able to negotiate with the Australian government to acquire these two new Cape class vessels, which will be arriving soon. However, I would not venture into disclosing the date, as I don’t have the date in my back pocket. Due to the weather conditions and other factors the date can change and I know in this country if the vessels do not arrive on the date I have given, it would become a big issue,” he added.

The National Security Minister asked the population to “show some respect” for National Security services and give them all the support.

“I got a call from an informant who got my cellphone number who told me ‘Minister Hinds, we see when the Coast Guard vessels are on patrol and they know where it’s heading and there are people in that village in East Trinidad who would call their criminal counterparts and inform them they can now pass with their illegal items’. This is the reality of it, the struggle is a serious one,” he said.

“We are not unaware that there are complicit or rogue elements in our services, everyone is aware of that and I expect the leadership of these organisations to take action, boldly, forcefully, and swiftly to deal with those kinks in the armour,”|Hinds said.

Irresponsible behaviour

Hinds however said the recent upsurge in Covid-19 cases has nothing to do with illegal migration as there was no compelling evidence to show that the rapid spread of Covid-19 being experienced in the country has anything to do with illegal migration.

Hinds outlined that the spread was due to people disregarding Covid-19 protocols.

“The spread the experts in the Ministry of Health have told us is as a consequence of community spread on the basis of our interaction, disregarding the protocols, disregarding the public health ordinance and its regulations. This is where the bulk of the problem comes. People’s gathering for parties and wakes and limes and just being reckless,” he said.

He continued, “I hope that I have made that abundantly clear while recognising that there is the potential for the importation of this virus and its various strains and variants if we continue to have illegal entry into our country unchecked by the health and other authorities.”

Griffith: Drones coming soon

Also speaking at the news conference yesterday, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said police will be deployed to southern areas to address the problem.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is putting a massive operation down in the south-western peninsula. We have also been doing polygraph testing for officers who are currently down there, to ensure that they are doing what is required and not becoming a liability in our operations. Also very soon drones will be provided to assist us in this continuous problem,” he said.

Griffith also called on the public to do its part, as it’s very difficult to man several ports of entry without any support from the public.

“How often have we seen a photograph of a vessel and you get the name of the vessel? All the citizens in these areas I speak about they go silent, the batteries on their phone die when the vessels enter. We do have rogue elements in the Police Service, where is the photograph of the police vehicle that is escorting the illegal immigrants when they land or the persons who assisted them to come in? Instead what you hear is the persons who are caught are fishermen with long gold chains down to their stomachs, so I don’t know if they are catching gold fish, ” Griffith said.

He said the migrants are proving to be fuelling crime and other negative elements.

“These individuals have become the catalyst towards one of the biggest problems we have in this country which is illegal immigration. Some of these individuals are contributors towards major crimes and it can also become an issue that can increase the Covid situation in this country,” Griffith lamented.

Also speaking at the news conference, Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel said while the protective services are doing their part to try and man the porous borders, there are issues with servicing and maintenance of vessels.

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