TCI News

TCI: Minister responds to lingering frustrations at Labour and Immigration, says processes for efficiency coming with Summer

#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuesday May 8, 2018 – An illegal immigration clamp down is netting successes for the Turks and Caicos Ministry of Border Control and Employment, but residents who need documents to safeguard legal status say the same office is a quagmire of confusion when it comes to prompt service.

Magnetic Media put serious questions to the Minister, who is also the country’s Deputy Premier – Hon Sean Astwood – about the decades old reputation of the immigration and labour processes which seem more of a hinder, than a help.

“We do recognize the challenges in the system.  It is an inherited problem that this government obviously came into with a system that has been broken for a very long time.  The process of work permits and other documents obviously takes time in its own nature, we are looking at ways of fine tuning and making the system more efficient and part of that, as I mentioned from last year, is the border control management system, which has a work permit module where persons should be able to apply for work permits online.”

This new system within Border Control and Employment is expected to come on stream by Summer 2018; the project was touted as being able to ‘significantly increase efficiency’ when it comes to the turn around time on work permits according to the Deputy Premier and Minister responsible.

“During every phase of the process they will be able to track their application and also inquire of the ministry or department about what is going on with their documents.”

This will include, explained DP Astwood, notifications if there are missing items for the process of work permits to be completed.

The Minister was also reporting on the motives for Operation Guardian and other border control, immigration and labour initiatives which are supporting the special-ops involving Cayman and Interpol police assistance.

One key goal of the Ministry, he said, is to ensure there is dignity for the migrant, who is often being exploited by human and sex traffickers.  We asked DP Astwood about the dignity of legal residents and citizens who are subjected to grueling wait periods with just about every application at the Ministry’s One Stop Shop.

“… was the first of a series of meetings that myself and my PS are having with the Department Heads to make sure that we are doing everything within our power to look and assess our systems, our processes to see if there are ways we can make them more efficient.”  The Minister added that the Labour Commissioner and his Deputy were in attendance; some of the ideas raised would be immediately instituted and could eliminate the need for Immigration Board approvals on specific professions.

Credit card size work permits are now available, a new regime which is already experiencing annoying hiccups according to those reaching out to Magnetic Media.  Deputy Premier Astwood explained the issues facing the new-styled document.

“We are not running out of stock,” the Minister further explained, “That card was intended to be a part of the same Border Management Control System and was intended to be used when that system was introduced.  I made the decision that because of the nature and the benefits the card itself had even outside of the system that  it was proper and necessary for us to move ahead with implementing the card.  What that meant was we had to use a makeshift system in order to be able to implement and start distributing those cards. We have been having some issues with that system but we are constantly working on it to make sure we are getting cards out as quickly as possible.”

Stocks are not low but the software is creating a back-up in distribution.

Still, barring this break down, one can wait nearly 3-years for a simple birth certificate.  Citizens rarely get documents returned within the time frame given by the One Stop Shop.  And after years and years of issues and problems, the reasons given for delays – which are often expensive, frustrating setbacks – are nothing more than unacceptable excuses to the public.

Recent meetings with officials of the country have revealed a resounding, echoing agreement for a digitised set of systems to enhance public service, customer service, government networking and to build a more modern Turks and Caicos.  However from the Governor to Premier, Deputy Premier to Police Commissioner, there is no clear plan revealed on how a digital Turks and Caicos will ever come about.

During that press meeting, the Border Control Minister, Sean Astwood expressed optimism and is like administrations before him asking for the public for patience as the Ministry tries to deliver upon expedient, efficient service.

“Trust me, I appreciate what you are saying.  We are ensuring that the frontline staff communicate properly and correctly to our customers that they are provided with the correct information.  We are also working feverishly, and over the next three months, you should anticipate that we will be publishing timelines for our processes. I can promise you and public that we are working hard at this.”


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