Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams. (FP)

A new Immigration Act, citizens’ legislation, a revised Child Justice Bill and a review of Barbados’ penal reform system are among the priority areas for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Minister Wilfred Abrahams, who also has responsibility for Information and Public Affairs, outlined these key areas during a recent courtesy call with United States Ambassador, Linda Taglialatela.

She was joined by Thomas Pajusi, from the Political and Economic Section, while the Minister was accompanied by acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Lorna Leacock.

Minister Abrahams explained that a new Immigration Act and citizens’ legislation were now in the final stages of drafting and expected to go before Cabinet soon.

He explained that the new immigration policy would look at regularising the status of persons already on island and expanding the net of who qualified for citizenship.

“The amendment to the Act will clean up the anomalies and make the application process simpler and more user friendly,” Mr. Abrahams said.

With regards to children, the Minister said he wanted to develop a framework that dealt with the welfare and wellness of children, and addressed the first signs of issues to prevent them from entering the system.

“As it is now, the Child Justice Act becomes effective after the child has entered the system,” he said, noting that there was a need to look holistically at the legislation pertaining to children.

Meanwhile, he outlined that the intention under a new penal reform system was to keep people out of prison, and get those who are in out as quickly as possible through measures such as a parole system and electronic monitoring.

“Prison is a place for whom there is no other option.  We want to have alternatives to incarceration,” Mr. Abrahams said.

The Ambassador offered support and assistance with updating Barbados’ legislation, while expressing concern about key areas.

Those areas included supporting legislation and prosecution for the trafficking of persons and protocols for arriving in islands and going straight to work following a disaster.

Mrs. Taglialatela expressed concern over Barbados’ ability to maintain its Tier 2 ranking as it relates to the trafficking of persons’ report.  “I fought hard to keep it there, but if you do not set up a system to have the necessary legislation and prosecutions, Barbados will fall to Tier 3, which will impact the funding we can provide,” the Ambassador cautioned.

In response, the Minister said Government would be happy to support the anti-trafficking legislation and push for prosecutions, advancement in legislation and stepped- up investigations.

He also gave the undertaking to raise the issue regarding protocols for relief assistance post-disaster with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health and Wellness.

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