|Ministers tour Immigration Division |
By NEWSDAY REPORTERS Tuesday, July 15 2014
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REVIEW: Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, left, National Security Minister Gary Griffith, 2nd from left, Ag Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Charma...
HOUSING Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal says 23 of 26 problems identified at the Passport Office of the Immigration Division at Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain have been addressed, with outstanding problems set to be resolved in one week.
“We sent in a team from the Ministry of Housing’s Property Division to undertake some repair and upgrade work. We’re very pleased with what we have seen. A lot of work took place on the weekend. It ranged from ceiling fixtures to roofing problems, to simple things like changing light bulbs and fixing doors. I’m pleased that the Immigration workers themselves are here this afternoon and are continuing to work,” Moonilal said.
In contrast, Moonilal said he had been informed that workers at the Immigration Division’s San Fernando office were “not at work” yesterday afternoon. “We are hoping that good sense will prevail. If we have a list of some of the issues in San Fernando, we’ll be happy to take a look to see what we can do to bring immediate relief (there) as well.” Moonilal was speaking with reporters following an early afternoon tour of the Passport Office on Frederick Street yesterday. He was accompanied by National Security Ministry Gary Griffith, Managing Director of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Jearlean John, and Acting Deputy Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews.
Describing repairs to the Frederick Street building as a “short-term solution”, Moonilal told reporters the medium-term solution would see the Immigration Division relocated to the “PK9 facility” at the Government Campus.
“PK9 is located on the tenth floor of a building on lower Richmond Street that is part of the Government campus,” Moonilal explained. The campus comprises several buildings set in a cluster along lower Richmond and Edward Streets, Port-of-Spain, many of which have never been occupied since their completion under the Patrick Manning Administration. Moonilal promised to provide more details on the move in Parliament this Friday (July 18).
When Newsday asked why staff members had earlier said renewal of passports was the only type of application being processed at Port-of-Spain at this time, Gandhi-Andrews said limited staff meant priority was prioritising the workload.
“It’s not that they were not being processed, because it depends on whether we have officers on duty or not. So I tried to take care of the immediate needs... issuing passports. A first-time application requires more interaction with the officer. As we get things back on stream, we would begin to deal with those persons applying for passports for the first time. Of course, if you need a passport to travel, we are facilitating persons,” Gandhi-Andrews assured.
Questioned about how long it would take to deal with the backlog of applications, she expressed hope to do so “within two months.”
Last Friday, Government asked the court to enforce its July 3 injunction banning industrial action, which the PSA is sidestepping by arguing that the building is unsafe for staff under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.
Asked to confirm reports that workers are offering a limited service (in dispensing passports but not processing first-time applicants), PSA President Watson Duke replied to Newsday, “Well, I wouldn’t say ‘the workers...’ The building is still unsafe. It is not OSHA compliant.” He replied “yes” when questioned about the union’s monitoring of renovations before saying, “We have no word at all on that. That’s for management to answer. They have to give us a report to let us know it is complete.”