By Garwin Davis
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – While Jamaica is strategically located to important trade partners, such as the United States and Canada, the island remains susceptible to nefarious transnational activities, says minister of national security, Dr Horace Chang.
Addressing reporters after touring the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St James, on August 18, Dr Chang said that with this in mind, it is critical that the country does everything in its power to strengthen its borders, adding that bringing the airports up to international and respectable standards are prerequisites in achieving that goal.
He pointed to infrastructural improvements at the Sangster International Airport as proof of the government’s commitment to strong borders, noting that this could not be more clearly illustrated than the new strategic direction to Enhance Travel Facilitation through a risk-based data-driven inspection system that has been adopted.
“This has resulted in the increase from 10 to 45 Auto Border Crossing (ABC) kiosks; increased number of processing points from 36 to 84 [39 desks and 45 kiosks]; implementation of Online Passenger declaration form; upgrading of the kiosk to allow the online declaration forms to be submitted through the kiosk,” the Minister noted.
“Add to this, upgrading of the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) to obtain the information, upgrading of the current Border Management System to process passengers faster, and implementation of a Satellite Document Forensic lab to test for fraudulent documents,” he said.
A kiosk is a touch-screen device allowing passengers to do self-check-in and pay with credit or debit cards for free. Kiosks provide a valid boarding pass at the end. Passengers can save time by using kiosks at busy airports and avoid long queues.
Dr Chang said that not only do “these operational improvements” have direct impact on customer experience but that, in practical terms, these measures have led to “reduction in waiting time in the Immigration Hall; a more streamlined process; development of peak plans to address seasonal increases in passenger volumes; deployment of kiosks at strategic points to assist with processing of passengers; more information of passengers prior to arrival, leading to reduction in screening time; and improvement in kiosk processing speed per passenger from two minutes to 30 seconds.”
The minister said that the government will continue to invest in improving customer experience, adding that by the end of this financial year, commuters can expect to see not only additional kiosks but also upgrading of kiosks to facilitate their use by passengers 13 years and above. In addition, electronic gates will be installed by March 2023 and additional officers will be recruited to assist with the processing of passengers, he noted.
“We will also be seeing the upgrading of Immigration officers’ booths to facilitate greater efficiency … the upgrading of the APIS system to provide higher quality passenger information, which will lead to faster processing and where immigration can be better able to identify threats,” Dr Chang added.
“These achievements have direct impact and benefit to our people both here and across the diaspora. The government remains committed to facilitating the lives, travel and identity needs of our people.”
Drug trafficking and money laundering are two intricately connected transnational organised crimes affecting Jamaica. This situation continues to be a problem, as it affects the transnational relationships between Jamaica and its trading partners and undermines the authority of the State.