Barbados to abolish immigration/customs forms

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(CMC) — Passengers arriving at the Grantley Adams International Airport here will no longer be required to fill out immigration/customs forms, also known as ED forms, as of September 1.

According to Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, starting next month, there will be a full transition to the use of the 48 kiosks at the airport.

Hinkson, who was speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the kiosk system has been tested for almost a year and has been fine-tuned to ensure that the passenger information gathering system meets all the markers for Customs, Immigration and the Statistical Services.

“We have eliminated the ED cards from September 1. Cabinet made that decision at last Thursdays’ meeting. We have 48 kiosks now; there were 16 and we got another 32 and they were installed last month and are working effectively. I am not going to tell Barbadians that there will be perfection and that the systems will never break down, but we have backup facilities, redundancies in other computer equipment, in terms of saving the information.”

He also disclosed that Cabinet has decided to put more questions in the system.

“Right now, on the ED card, persons are asked to put in their address, length of stay in Barbados, type of accommodation, zip code. We are going to add some questions to the kiosks that will still allow for the acquisition of that information.”

He added that while speed of the process may vary based on the size of a travelling party as well as an individual’s technical proficiencies, the digital systems have significantly cut down the length of time it takes for passengers to get through the airport.

“Right now, the questions in there take an average of a minute to a minute and a half. Obviously, it depends on how technically challenged you are. Also, a single person would take a shorter…time than a couple or a family of four. But everyone who has used it has said that it is tremendous and that it has made life much easier for entering Barbados,” he said.

However, Hinkson stressed that while Government was focused on improving efficiency and ease getting into the country, measures were being taken to ensure that national security was not compromised.

He said the Government has reserved the right to add more questions if international or local developments demand it.

“If there is a global outbreak of Ebola, for example, any reasonable person would understand that if you have been to ‘X’ or ‘Y’ country in the last few months, then it should be indicated. We have to protect our public health and ensure our national security is preserved. So we intend to monitor the system and make updates where necessary.”