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Computers down in South

By Newsday Staff Saturday, July 12 2014

RENOVATIONS were yesterday underway and ongoing at the passport office of the Immigration Division at Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, by workmen hired by the building’s owner, Jerlean John, head of Udecott which is the project manager, said yesterday.

A sign saying, “Closed for renovation” was posted outside the building as services ended at 12 pm yesterday.

She said a lot of work was underway in the renovations. “Many things are happening at the same time,” said John. “There were some works on the outside in the car-park that is being done right now.”

Inside the building, said John, repairmen were fixing the electrical cabling, including some of the hanging wires, as was discussed with TTEC.

“They are repairing the entrance way, and security area will be attended to. We are also doing the ceiling tiles. Issues such as bathrooms are going to start next week. What we are going to do now will be some cleaning up of the bathroom because ...there are issues relating to policy, issues relating to structure, and issues relating to compliance to regulatory bodies, so all of these things are happening simultaneously.” John said some issues had been apparent all along, but not others.

“The boxes (cubicles), that was a big thing for OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Authority), in terms of the overcrowding with the boxes, is being attended to. By Saturday afternoon that should not be an issue for the Immigration office again,” she said.

Newsday asked when the office will reopen.

“That’s a matter for the Chief Immigration Officer. We are only coopted to treat with the issues as outlined in those 26 items as cited by OSHA.”

John remarked, “The employees are working you know. The staff were there, I don’t know if it is all, and they are very cooperative.”

She couldn’t say if the staff were offering a full service (including interviews) or a limited service (passport collection).

“The owner of the building is carrying out works on the building. They have taken up their own responsibility, the rehabilitation of the building. We are doing the project management. We are looking at more the regulatory things.”

However, work stopped at the San Fernando immigration office with staff claiming the computer system was down. Scores of frustrated customers left without collecting their passports again.

For the past three weeks, the South immigration office has been operating in a limited capacity, only issuing passports and giving out application forms. A few persons were able to collect their passports in that period. Yesterday, however, those hoping to collect their passports were told “the system is down” and were forced to leave empty-handed for yet another day.

The excuse prompted one frustrated customer to shout, “What system down? They are the system. You telling me if the computer down, they can’t physically check to see if my passport there?”

The woman, who has been to the office at least five times within the last two weeks, said she noticed there were fewer workers than usual in the office yesterday.

Immigrants residing in the country have also been affected by the limited service. Many of them have been seeking extensions of stay but have not had their matters dealt with. Some have been in the country way past their deadline dates and are worried about being deported.

Yina Esther Batista Tatista is from the Dominican Republic and has lived in Trinidad for the past year and a half.

She is married to a local man. She said she has been to the immigration office every day this week to extend her stay but has been consistently denied service. She said, “If Sunday comes and police look for me and lock me up, what am I to do?”

San Fernando immigration workers are citing occupational safety concerns for their actions complaining of a staircase they say is too steep, a stench in the toilet area when it rains as well as a fire escape which opens inward instead of outward.

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