Saint Lucia
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Home Affairs Minister Reviews unfolding Saga at Immigration Department

Home Affairs Minister, Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte
Home Affairs Minister, Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte

Home Affairs Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte has stated that no evidence of wrongdoing at the island’s immigration office has been ascertained —despite reported claims of alleged malpractice in the processing of passports at the offices.

The minister dispelled reports that have been circulating concerning misdemeanours implicating a high-ranking officer in the immigration department or passport office.

In a media interview, Monday, Dr. Albert-Poyotte noted that at least 200 passports are processed daily at the immigration offices, with further allocations for speedy delivery if warranted. If approved, the client pays an additional sum for the quick processing and speedy delivery of passports.

However, there have been rumors circulating about the delivery of service at the island’s Immigration Department, which implicates a high-ranking officer with alleged misconduct.

“We may have limited capacity to deal with the volume of work that’s there…and there’s the issue with regards to people paying extra money to obtain their passports,” noted Dr. Poyotte.

However, she added, “If somebody has a private business and Saint Lucians want to patronize that business that is their choice.

“What is of interest to the government is what happens in the Immigration Department…and if it is found that persons within the department facilitates any unlawful activity, then the ministry and the government will deal with the situation,” she said.

The minister further noted that issues have been raised regarding different companies processing passports, but “once it is a legal entity, the government will not engage in that. But we will explore what is happening at the immigration (office) to find out if there is any illegal activity facilitating something that is not acceptable and creating undue stress for the public.”

Dr. Poyotte informed that she has directed personnel within the immigration department to forward a full report, “because … we are not moving with problems, we are not shifting with problems. Any problems we have presently in the existing location, we have to deal with that before we move to the new location.”

Another issue of concern pertains to the increased issuing of passports for the summer holiday season. However, stated Dr. Poyotte, the matter is under control despite the officers having to process at least 1,500 passports for the upcoming holiday season.

“Lots of people who may not have chosen to renew their passports would not have done that, but now they may need it for them to travel,” she explained. “But now we see an excess demand for passports, especially in the months of May, June, July and August when people travel for their summer holidays.”

With regards to allegations made concerning the implication of a higher rank officer in the dispute, Dr. Poyotte said, “We are actually going to find out whether there is any truth in the matter. However , the individual has decided to defend his name by proceeding with a legal matter …but when it comes to the department of Home Affairs , we will find out what the process is and whether there is anyone inside the department that facilitates anything that causes undue delay for the public to get their documents.”

Dr. Poyotte notes that whereas there are special agencies out there to facilitate issuance of passports to the public, nonetheless, it has to be expedited on a “first come, first serve” basis, and whether the persons who “ordered their passports first, gets theirs first or whether there is any element of short circuiting where it is facilitated inside”.

The Home Affairs minister reiterated that the concern is “not about how much money people pay special agencies out there … but what I would hate to know is that (if) somebody is on the line from morning and that person is waiting for their passport and someone inside the office facilitates somebody ‘jumping  the line’ , we will not allow that.”

She added, “We want persons to take their cue …as the passport department did indicate that every single person who needed their passport to travel urgently, emergency or for medical reasons they do facilitate them.”

Meanwhile, the police officer implicated in that matter ASP Sean Alexander has filed a law suit against his accuser claiming the person engaged in ‘reckless and false’ social media posts.

ASP Alexander told the St Lucia Times that the accuser Minerva Ward made certain widely circulated ‘scandalous and outrageous’ statements about him.

“I take these defamatory allegations seriously and have promptly instructed my lawyers to take the appropriate action seeking an immediate retraction and apology by Ms. Ward to be published similarly to the false statements she made about me,” the senior police officer said in a statement.

ASP Alexander further contends that, “The scandalous content of the post, coupled with the magnitude of its vast publication, has caused severe damage to my otherwise unblemished character and reputation as a civil servant with over 34 years of service to my country”.

He added: “I want to categorically deny the allegations made by Ms. Ward against me in her desperate attempt for political relevance or “likes”.