Director of Immigration Clarence Russell said yesterday that the Department of Immigration is understaffed, noting that a recent manpower audit found that the department needs an additional 800 officers.
Russell said he is trying to bring on 120 officers.
“I acknowledge that there has been for years a concern,” Russell told reporters during a press conference at the department’s head office on Hawkins Hill.
“I think that is what has depleted the ranks. And then, every year you have retirements, you have persons that leave the service, you have persons who are unfortunately dismissed from the service. So, there is a tremendous need that’s very topical.”
When asked if there is a shortage at the department, Russell replied, “Suffice to say, the Immigration Department has been staffed for quite a while. And I think you know that unlike other agencies, not every island has immigration presence and so, that’s one of the issues that I’ve also been addressing.”
He said there is “obviously a deficiency” in islands like Cat Island and Long Island where there are no immigration officers.
Russell said a manpower analysis was recently completed within the department.
He said the analysis indicated a need for roughly 800 officers in the department.
There are currently 580, according to the director.
“Hence, we’re trying to put in 120,” Russell said.
“The process for them is almost completed.”
He added, “As the community grows, as the economy normalizes once again, that will really dictate how many persons we could really bring on board.”
Russell said the department is considering putting reservists on islands where it is “not economically astute for you to have officers out there”.
“I don’t think you would want me to recruit during this COVID-19 [pandemic],” he said.
Russell said there have been talks about promotions since he assumed office more than two years ago.
He said he gave a policy paper to then-Immigration Minister Brent Symonette.
That paper was taken to Cabinet, according to Russell.
“We have been preparing all of the requisites, so that we can go to the Public Service Commission to go ahead and do a promotional exercise,” he said.
Russell added, “I think had [Hurricane] Dorian not done what she did to us and had COVID-19 not done what she did to us, I think we would be much farther ahead. But, rest assured, the issue of promotion is being addressed.”