Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews has warned immigration officers that severe penalties can be imposed if any officer is found to be distributing sensitive and confidential information collected by the Immigration Division.
The warning came in the form of a letter issued on May 13, just days after Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar presented at a virtual news conference scanned copies of Passenger Declaration Forms and Manifest of Passengers (Embarking/Disembarking) in Transit Forms related to the March 27 visit of Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez.
That letter has been obtained by the Express.
“These forms contained the private data and declarations of certain foreign nationals who gained entry into Trinidad and Tobago in March 2020, all collected by and held in the custody of officers of the Immigration Division.
“The circumstances which led to the unauthorised and improper dissemination of the above mentioned documents and information constitute a severe and inexcusable breach of the duties of confidentiality and good service made critical to the role of the officers of this Division,” the letter stated.
It went on to add that under Section 12(5) of the Immigration Act, officers are not allowed to disclose either directly or indirectly such information to any person except a government minister or a person authorised by the minister to be privy to the information.
Gandhi-Andrews pointed out that Section 41(1) of the Immigration Act states:
“Every person who, being an immigration officer or any other employee of the Immigration Department, violates a provision of this Act or the Regulations or commits any offence under this Act or the Regulations or induces, aids or abets or attempts to induce, aid or abet any other person to do so; is liable —
(i) on summary conviction for a first offence to a fine of $1,000 and to imprisonment for 12 months, and on any subsequent summary conviction to a fine of $2,000 and to imprisonment for 18 months; and
(ii) on conviction on indictment for a first offence, to a fine of $2,000 and to imprisonment for 18 months, and on any subsequent conviction on indictment to a fine of $4,000 and to imprisonment for two years.”
The Chief Immigration Officer made reference to the Civil Service Regulations Chapter 23:01 which imposes a duty on immigration officers to refrain from acting in any manner that may bring the service into disrepute. This includes a general adherence to a general duty to confidentiality of documents and information encountered in the course of their duty.
“Where a public officer is accused of committing an act of misconduct, the Service Commission may pursue disciplinary measures against him which may result in dismissal from the public service.
“With these provisions and obligations brought to your consideration, you are cautioned and urged to abide by the provisions of the Immigration Act and the Civil Service Regulations.
“The Immigration Division and the Ministry of National Security view any breaches of these provisions by its officers, in particular those concerning the confidentiality of the Division’s affairs, as inexcusable.
“Any officer found on evidence to have committed or aided in the commission of such a breach, shall be treated with accordingly,” Gandhi-Andrews warned.