Clear and present danger

There is no doubt that the selling of our national passports by our bankrupt Caribbean leaders who have lost the Banana war is the greatest clear and present danger to our relations with the civilised world.

Recently, under the heading “Antigua Gov’t ‘actively’ reviewing citizenship for Syrian nationals” in the Antiguan Observer, the Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne was quoted as saying that the Antigua and Barbuda government is “actively” considering preventing nationals from Syria obtaining citizenship under the island’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) and it denounced the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that left more than 129 people dead.

“I would admit that there is a growing concern in terms of the level of terrorism there and we want to make sure, too, that we have very secure borders and clearly it is not only about securing our national security interest but those of our neighbours so consideration is being given to exclude Syrian citizens from the programme,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said.

Browne said the issue was first considered during the last review in December 2014 when the government took the decision that it would instruct the CIP unit to deny citizens from Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Somalia, Yemen and Iran to acquire local citizenship.

Brown went on to say that, “It is important for the nation to note we have not processed a single application from the countries so listed and that the list that was presented in June of this year would have been applications that were processed prior.”

Obviously Prime Minister Browne must be commended to be one of the first among his colleagues to recognise publicly the ghastly danger they are exposing their citizens to by selling passports to the world at large.

Prime Minster Browne goes on to emphasise that “any notion that we are processing applications from residents from North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan and even Iraq and Iran without them …being permanent residents of the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. That is not so, that a policy my government introduced”.

Sadly for Prime Minister Browne and his passport selling colleagues from these pauperised nations the solution is not as simple as that. What happens to the twenty year old Iraqi who was brought to Bulgaria at the age of five, by way of Greece after living in Yemen when his family was killed in a sortie and is now a citizen of France? Under the current rules they would sell him a passport.

Browne, speaking on Observer Radio, said that Antigua and Barbuda has the “best regulated CIP programme” in the Caribbean and he has kept it that way.

One of the terrorists being investigated by the French authorities based on a passport found at the scene of one of the bombings appears to have Syrian connection and carrying a passport obtained from another nation. Only recently persons of Trinidadian origin were on the internet pledging their allegiance to the terrorist.

Another Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris of St. Kitts & Nevis, whose country has the oldest CIP programme, said several initiatives have been introduced in his country to ensure due diligence is never compromised.

“We are concerned about the reputational damage to our citizens; it only takes one bad apple to spoil all of it,” the St Kitts & Nevis PM said.

He further stated that for most Caricom nationals, their native citizenship is all they have.

According to Prime Minister Browne, “It is part of our national security strategy and we will continue to monitor global affairs (and) where countries are sponsors of state terrorism …then clearly we will review the list”.

“As the country that has led this long before anyone else, I still make the appeal that even in this critical area we need to have a regional plan and regional effort, or else we would have a march to the bottom,” Dr. Harris warned.

He also commended Antigua & Barbuda for agreeing to host a regional CIP Summit next month.

As this unfinished script unfolds, and the Prime Ministers seek to find ways to mitigate against our documents being used by terrorist, one can only hope that ultimately these countries would find an alternative way of financing their bankrupt operations rather than by selling passports willy-nilly to people without any control over the final destination of the document, nor the intentions of the buyer.

by Garvey Louison

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